To baseball fans in Provo, Utah, he's known as 'The Mantis.'
To teammates in Battle Creek, he's simply 'Mase.'
But no matter where he is, Mason Marshall (BYU) is a confident pitcher with an unorthodox delivery who finds ways to get hitters out during the game's most crucial moments.
Marshall is having a stellar summer in the Northwoods League for the Battle Creek Bombers, serving as the team's primary closer.
"There are outings when you feel like nobody can put a ball in play off of you," said Marshall. "I guess my mentality is to just go at guys. I don't worry about locating specifically. Just staying low at the knees and just try to strike everybody out.
"(Closing) is what I'm good at. It fits my personality I think. I like coming in in tight situations and just doing what I can do best."
Through 16 1/3 innings in 13 appearances for Battle Creek, Marshall is 1-1 with two saves and a 2.20 ERA along with 21 strikeouts to just six walks.
"He has a good fastball, a good slider and throws a changeup — he knows how to use it, he has a good belief in what he's doing," said Bombers' pitching coach Matt Reed. "What you always want for a closer is he always comes in throwing strikes. He can have the greatest stuff in the world, but if it's not over the plate... (Marshall's) ability to stay consistent and ability to pound the strike zone is what makes him who he is."
PUTTING THE BALL AND GLOVE DOWN
Marshall was a standout pitcher at Bingham High School in Utah, where he went 11-0 with a 0.93 ERA his senior season, helping the team win the 5A State Championship while also being named the state tournament MVP.
While he considered attending the University of Utah, where his grandfather Jerry McCleary helped the Utes men's basketball team to the Elite Eight in 1956, Marshall decided BYU was the best place to develop as a baseball player and as a person.
His high school success carried over to his first season for the Cougars in 2012, where Marshall recorded the second most saves in BYU single-season history (9) on his way to earning a spot on the Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American Team.
BYU baseball radio play-by-play announcer Brent Norton dubbed Marshall 'The Mantis' due to his 5-foot-8 stature and the way he uses his unique windup to make himself look bigger — much like a praying mantis does when threatened.
According to BYU's 2014 demographics, 98.7 percent off all daytime students identify as Mormon. And like many Mormon student-athletes, Marshall put his athletic career on hold to serve a mission trip for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The sociology major and Eagle Scout traveled to the Philippines in 2013, where he spent two years.
"So I learned the language there and I basically walked around and found people to teach about Jesus Christ and the gospel and just tried to help people in any way that I could," Marshall said. "It was a really good experience. I learned a lot, I became a much more humble person and I think a much better person than I was. It was an amazing experience and I wouldn't do it different any other way."
While in the Philippines, Marshall said he picked up a baseball only twice — a far cry from the daily grind of playing Division 1 baseball.
"I didn't work out, I didn't throw. I played catch two times and it was like 10 feet for fun," Marshall said. "I took two gloves and a ball, but there wasn't really anyone to throw with. Baseball is not a popular sport there — a lot of people had never even heard of it."
RETURN TO THE BUMP
When Marshall returned to the BYU baseball team, he was obviously not the same pitcher he was before he left on his mission trip.
Some early-season struggles played a role in his 5.90 ERA, but he still found ways to help his team by posting a 4-2 record with one save in 23 appearances.
"Physically it was really hard, you start throwing again. You feel really good at first, but as time goes on you start to hurt in places you've never hurt," Marshall said. "But mentally, that was definitely the hardest part. Before I left, I took pride in being a mentally tough player, not letting anything rattle me, being ultra competitive to a fault maybe even.
"When I got back, I hadn't really competed in anything in two years and hadn't done anything athletically. The mentality of working a batter, the feel of the baseball game, throwing what pitches in what counts, all that stuff, maintaining and competitive edge and maintaining an edge, it was really tough to get back."
If this summer is any indication, Marshall is well on his way to getting back to being the All-American pitcher he was prior to his mission trip. He said his fastball is ranging from 88-92 mph and he's been as reliable as they come out of the bullpen against stiff competition in the wooden bat Northwoods League.
"There is really good competition for sure," Marshall said. "I like it because I don't know anybody and I don't look at the roster or read scouting reports. I just go to the game and throw to whoever comes to the plate. You find out later who it was and how good they are. Every game, we play guys on other teams that are really talented players."