Right before the start of every season, West Forsyth’s baseball team holds an intra-squad scrimmage. The two teams are always captained by senior players who alternate picking players, and it becomes a serious affair – the players choose humorous team names, wear coordinated t-shirts, even create Twitter accounts.
Wolverines head coach Mike Pruitt had no trouble choosing Mason McWhorter as one of the team captains for this season’s scrimmage. McWhorter is the only senior on the team.
But despite his seniority, McWhorter’s scrimmage opponent had no hesitation in testing his competitive spirit. First, they announced their team would be named after McWhorter’s recent girlfriend. On game day, they showed up wearing t-shirts with her picture.
McWhorter took the gamesmanship in stride, but he sent a message at the plate: he had a single, triple and home run with five RBIs as McWhorter’s team won 7-4. Point made.
“I’m definitely one of the leaders out here,” McWhorter says.
In some ways, McWhorter has no choice. West is coming off its first region championship in program history, but that team was built around a core of spirited and talented seniors. For two years-plus, West counted on Addison Albright, Chris Cullen, Hampton McConnell, Derrick Pickvet, Nathan Schmitz, Alec Wilson and McWhorter to lead the way. They, along with seven other seniors, are all gone, leaving McWhorter as the sole veteran this season.
“It’s a whole new team,” McWhorter said. “I’m trying to get these guys amped up for this season and keep that tradition and head toward that region championship.”
A three-year varsity player, McWhorter has done a little of everything for West – pitched, played outfield and first base and designated hitter – and done it well. A two-time all-county selection who signed with Georgia Southern this past November, McWhorter hit .333 with seven doubles, two home runs and 21 RBIs last season. He thinks he had a better sophomore season; indeed, he hit .415 and had a memorable home run in the state playoffs at Class AAAAAA powerhouse Parkview.
West will need that and more from McWhorter this season, and so he prepared accordingly.
After a summer’s worth of travel baseball with Team Elite, McWhorter jumped right into West’s workouts when school started. From August to November, the team worked every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Each workout ended with running up and down the football stadium bleachers.
“It ends up being 2,000 steps or something ridiculous like that,” McWhorter said.
After Thanksgiving break, McWhorter and the Wolverines worked every day, adding throwing and extra conditioning on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“This was probably the hardest I’ve ever worked before in the offseason,” McWhorter said.
But McWhorter pours himself into hitting. He works every day with his dad, either at West or in the cages at Barrett Baseball and Hitters Park in Cumming for an hour-and-a-half, maybe two hours.
Sometimes McWhorter spends those father-son sessions with a purpose. He might need to work on getting to inside pitches or hitting the ball to the opposite field. But when it feels just right, McWhorter swings freely without concern.
“I feel good right now at the plate,” McWhorter said.
McWhorter feels good about this West team too. It has replaced its entire outfield, including McWhorter, who is moving from first base where he played last season. It has a new catcher, and plenty of new pitchers.
And it has a new leader in McWhorter, a role he is ready to embrace.
“I want to be able to get the guys up in the dugout when we’re down in the bottom of the seventh,” McWhorter said. “Or by coming up clutch in the bottom of the seventh with a base hit to win the game.”