Baseball in Hagerstown spans back over a century, always leaving fans with a sense of pride for their ball clubs and the community with a shared feeling of camaraderie. As the city now enters a new age of baseball, and the Hagerstown Flying Boxcars enter their inaugural season, the club has chosen Mark Mason to lead the club into the future and bring back baseball to the city that values it so dearly.
Mason is one of the most accomplished managers in the history of the Atlantic League, raking in over 600 wins and earning three league championships with the York Revolution, yet his pathway to success began much earlier. Growing up in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, Mason grew up a Pittsburgh baseball fan and an All-State Canon McMillan High School athlete, naming Willie Stargell and Tom Seaver amongst his idols.
“I got into baseball when I was nine years old. When I was growing up, you couldn’t play any organized ball before that [age]. Started playing at nine, played through high school. We won our section, [and I] pitched against Danny Marino in the state semi-finals. I was a third baseman/pitcher, and when I got to college, I was a pitcher/designated hitter.”
Mason committed to Waynesburg College, an NAIA college in Pennsylvania, where he quickly established himself as a cornerstone of the program, earning accolades including All-Conference and All-NAIA honors. By the time Mason left the program, he was ready for the majors and signed a free-agent deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates right out of college, which saw him compete at the Double-A level in Massachusetts.
However, after a family tragedy, Mason decided to leave his playing career behind early and pursue a profession away from baseball. It led him to become a member of the working world, as a warehouse manager with U.S. Steel amongst other roles. Yet, Mason was destined for baseball, and it wasn’t long before he would be drawn in once again.
“While I was [away from baseball], the Pirates actually reached out to me and asked me what kind of shape I was in. They were looking for pitchers. I went to the local college, Washington and Jefferson College, and I talked to their athletic director, and told them I need a place to work out.”
At the time, Mason had not played professional baseball in over five years. However, he knew the opportunity in front of him was too good to pass up. That’s when the athletic director of Washington and Jefferson College, his nearby facility, cut a deal with Mason. In return for using the facility to prepare for the Pirates, Mason agreed to help coach the college’s baseball program. Thus, his coaching career was born.
“When I got into the working world, was I ever thinking I was going to coach at all? No. My life was in a different way all together and the next thing you know, we’re giving this up, we’re giving that up, and now we’re gonna travel all over the country and coach baseball,” said Mason, “I got into coaching kind of by accident. It’s been very enjoyable.”
Over the next few years, Mark Mason spent time across the Frontier League and Atlantic League coaching a variety of teams to success at the professional and collegiate levels, including landing a coaching position with another first-year team in the Washington Wild Things, and in 2009, Mason landed the position of pitching coach with the York Revolution – which would see him leave decades later as one of the most successful managers in the history of the Atlantic League.
With York, Mason earned his fair share of awards, including the Atlantic League Manager of the Year Award in 2014, and his success didn’t stop there. To put in his cabinet along with his three Atlantic League Championships, Mason is a two time manager of the year and three time coach of the year to this point in his career. He has also managed two Atlantic league All-Star teams and was a part of three others in his career. Entering the 2024 season, Mason currently stands fourth all-time in Atlantic League wins – a streak that he looks to build upon with the Flying Boxcars.
As a manager, some of Mason’s most memorable moments have come during that time, in the form of relationships he has built with fans, athletes and members of the community. Invitations to former players’ weddings, graduation parties, and other milestones or even receiving personal updates years later highlighted the bunch off the field.
“Winning Championships, you enjoy that. Even some of the games you play to get to the championships. Bringing players into your office and [congratulating them on making it to the majors]. To say one thing, and I’m probably forgetting a bunch of things after all these years, [is hard]. That’s the beautiful thing about baseball. It’s the relationships,” said Mason. “It’s been a wild ride for sure.”
Mason’s time with York and the Atlantic League will surely help him take a big step with the Flying Boxcars in year one. Having spent such a long time in the Atlantic League North Division, Mason is no stranger to the style of play or the fan bases of rival clubs. He even sees a lot of similarities between the Flying Boxcars and the York Revolution, who he led to three titles.
As for his vision for the ball club, Mark Mason has two very clear goals. Win games, and make a difference in the community.
“My vision for the team is very simple. We win a lot of games. I want to win Championships, that’s the whole point of it,” said Mason. “Wins I remember, losses I remember more. I expect to win. Am I as excited when I win as I am upset when I lose? No. I am more upset when I lose than I am happy when I win.”
On the field, Mason’s fiery attitude and commitment to his team has the potential to lead the team to the top in year one. He holds his players to high standards, and will do whatever he can to put them in the best position to not only win games, but also advance their careers to the next level when the time is ready.
“I’m extremely competitive and I expect my ballplayers to perform at a certain level of effort. I [expect] one-hundred percent all of the time,” said Mason. “The guys that play for me love playing for me because I’m easy to play for, you just have to be on time, play the game hard, and play it the right way. If you do those three things for me, we’re good. They know what to expect, they know we’re gonna have fun, they know we’re gonna win.”
“I’m just excited for the opportunity. I know Hagerstown has had professional baseball before but this is their first Atlantic League, Independent League. I think the fanbase will be surprised at the talent level in the league. Every player that’s not in affiliated ball, wants to be in the Atlantic League.
Off the field, his aspirations are even bigger. He hopes to lead the Flying Boxcars and their new Downtown Hagerstown ballpark to being a hub for the community which will liven the downtown area and put Hagerstown on the map.
“I want Hagerstown to be a destination for people. You want it to be a destination where you say you have to be there – there’s things that happen there, [that] you’re not gonna see anywhere else. The kids can have fun, and there’s something for everybody. Independent baseball is a carnival with a baseball game.”
As Mason said, relationships are the beautiful part of baseball, and he hopes to begin building those from day one, shaking hands and getting to know Flying Boxcars fans on a first-name basis.
“I’m really excited to meet the fanbase. I’m looking forward to building relationships. It’s nice to be on the dugout and on the field and actually know the fans by name. That is what I really hope, that we get to that point with the fanbase and have a connection with the area and the people.”