Southeast Lauderdale baseball coach Shay Cooper knows he has a gem in catcher Mason Irby. The senior possesses something that his head coach can't teach.
"In the past, Mason has been noted for being clutch," said Cooper. "I know in 2012, he had the game-winning hit. It was one of those things you dream about, and he had it as a sophomore. When the stakes are higher, he's better."
Irby made 3A All-State as a junior last season, wowing fans and coaches alike with incredible power that comes from a lifetime of practice.
"I've been playing baseball since I was probably three or four years old," said Irby. "I just started out... just something that my parents started me out doing and it's been something I've liked ever since."
These days, the lefty bats third, thanks to long hours spent in both weight rooms and batting cages
"Mason's here long after everyone leaves most days. He's here first a lot of days," said Cooper "He puts in a lot of extra time. Him being good is not an accident."
Because they only see him on the diamond, baseball fans don't know that Irby is a self-proclaimed numbers guy.
"Math is by far my favorite. I'm not really much of an English and History guy... I like working with numbers."
After his playing days are over, Irby wants to use that passion to help people as a financial advisor, but he admits he uses those skills on the field already.
"Me and coach Lewis, [who] calls the pitches... numbers are like a big deal between us," said Irby. "We don't keep up with exact numbers, but if he [the batter] hasn't hit a curve ball yet that game, then that's what we're going to be pouding him with."
Mason's grades don't indicate interest in merely one subject. Academically, Irby is the top-ranked student in his senior class of 85.
"He's very intelligent, and I think that's a big part of him being as successful as he's been to this point," said Cooper.
Irby made it clear before the season began that the Tigers' top priority is to win a 3A state title. If the rest of his teammates have the work ethic he does, Southeast may do just that.
Irby signed to play baseball with Jones County Junior College in January. He said he hopes to play at a 4-year university in the future.