It was late in the college baseball season, and Matt Mazzoni didn’t have a place to pitch this summer.
His coach at Fresno Pacific sent out an email to see if anyone was interested, hoping to find a spot for his junior right-hander. The Mankato MoonDogs answered.
“I’d probably be playing on a local team with some of my buddies,” Mazzoni said. “It wouldn’t be anything like the caliber of this league. I’d heard about these type of leagues, but I never thought I’d have a chance to play in one. When you get that kind of an opportunity, you can’t pass it up.”
The MoonDogs lost a couple of pitchers late in the college season and were looking for another arm. That email sparked some interest, and Mazzoni turned his opportunity into an All-Star selection last week.
“It’s definitely a dream come true,” Mazzoni said. “I was just happy to get into the league.”
Mazzoni is 3-0 with a 2.60 earned-run average, allowing 30 hits and 12 walks with 19 strikeouts in 34 2/3 innings. He doesn’t have an overpowering fastball, hitting 87 to 88 mph, but he uses that pitch to set up his others.
“He mixes three pitches, and he’s a strike-thrower,” MoonDogs manager Mike Orchard said. “He’s a pitch-to-contact guy. He doesn’t have many strikeouts, but he doesn’t have many walks.
“He’s an older guy, which I like. He’s not a high-velocity guy, but he gets it done.”
At the All-Star game Monday, Mazzoni pitched in relief, facing three batters and allowing one hit with one strikeout.
“It was a great experience,” he said.
Mazzoni had a freak accident on a bus ride a couple of weeks ago, banging his elbow on a seat as he put his bags away. He’ll likely be used in relief for most of the season because he threw so much in the first half, and he tossed three hitless innings out of the bullpen Friday.
He said that the Northwoods League experience has been everything he had heard it would be, and he’s learned a lot about pitching in the last couple of months.
“I’ve learned to trust my defense,” he said. “I don’t have to make the perfect pitch every time. I’ve learned to trust my pitches. I’ve learned to throw any pitch on any count, and I’ve gotten better command of my pitches.
“I’m having the time of my life.”