Visiting his aunt and uncle in central Missouri, Mason McCarville has been aware of Drury University from an early age.
He's participated in camps there, watched games and even has a former Bobcat mentor that's served as a great sounding board in preparing him for the next level.
Balancing that experience and knowledge with the desire to extend his career on the diamond, McCarville signed his National Letter of Intent Monday to play baseball at Drury University, a Division II school in Springfield, Mo.
T-R PHOTO BY STEPHANIE IVANKOVICH
Marshalltown High School senior Mason McCarville, seated center, signs his National Letter of Intent to play baseball at NCAA Division-II Drury University in Springfield, Mo. With McCarville are his parents, John and Linn, and MHS Athletic Director Craig Huegel, standing.
"I wanted to go to a D-II setting," McCarville said. "I liked the mix between athletics and academics so I could play baseball at a competitive level and still get a high level of education.
"I have some family in central Missouri so that was a big factor. The campus was really nice and I loved the coaching staff, the team and what the team was about."
The Bobcat senior selected the Panthers over Wartburg College and is coming off a junior campaign in which he batted .311 with an on-base percentage of .403 and a slugging percentage of .427. McCarville finished third on the team in both doubles (9) and RBIs (19), while also tallying 32 hits, one home run and scoring 19 runs.
Sharing reps at catcher with 2013 senior Connor Ruddick, McCarville also spent time at all three spots in the outfield and amassed a .935 fielding percentage. Behind the plate he threw out five of 11 would-be base-stealers and enters his final prep season with an opportunity to further hone his craft.
"Mason is an athletic player who has a chance to be a very good catcher before he's done here," Marshalltown coach Steve Hanson said. "Competing at the Division II level is a big jump for any high school player. Hopefully Mason will have an advantage over other high school kids in that he's coming out of a program where he's been responsible for handling pitchers and calling a game. Playing in the CIML also tests your abilities on a daily basis."
McCarville attended a summer camp at Drury and quickly gained Panther coach Scott Nasby's attention with his throwing.
"His arm strength definitely impressed us, that was the first thing that jumped off the table," Drury coach Scott Nasby said. "Even though he's not a big kid in terms of height, he's a pretty strong kid. When you already have the strength in high school, you can work on some other things and you normally develop a little bit quicker than kids who don't have the strength yet."
The Panthers will return their starting catcher - junior Tyler Arthur - though McCarville will be in position to contend for the back-up spot as well as some opportunities at DH, the outfield and second or third base Nasby said. The senior Bobcat will get some valuable experience in the fall on the JV team where Drury will try him in many different spots.
"We're going to work him around at pretty much all the positions," Drury said of McCarville's opportunities on the fall-ball JV team. "He'll play quite a few games in the outfield, second base, third base and also catching. That will kind of allow us to see which one he has the best shot at in helping our team win and that's where he'll be in the spring."
McCarville said he was recruited as an athlete and is eager to help wherever he's needed.
"I'm kind of a utility player so outfield, infield, catching - wherever they need me and wherever I can get a spot to help the team would be great for me."
A big help in McCarville's preparation for Drury has come from current senior Panther Nick Thimesch, a 2010 Marshalltown grad.
"Nick has always been a mentor to me and I've always looked up to him as a person," McCarville said of the Drury standout, who holds the school's single-season records in hits and stolen bases and is line to claim several more.
"He's had some real great success down there as a player and in the classroom so it would be great to follow in his footsteps. If I achieve half of what he does, I'll be doing good."
Thimesch's success at Drury further opened the door for McCarville, who also has a cousin, Cole, who's attended several of Nasby's camps.
"(Nick) brought us a great knowledge of the game, good work ethic and immediate skills so that definitely helped us in knowing we wanted to get a Marshalltown kid," Nasby said. "(Steve Hanson) does a fantastic job with the high school program up there."
Nasby, who served as an assistant coach since the program's inception in 2007, made quite the head-coaching debut last season. He directed the Panthers to a 39-17 mark - setting a new record for wins - while also guiding the squad to its first NCAA Division II tournament berth since their first season.
Drury is in position to establish a new mark for wins as they currently stand 31-9 overall with eight regular season games remaining before the Great Lakes Valley Conference Championships. The Panthers are ranked No. 22 in the NCAA Division II Collegiate Baseball poll.
Wherever the 2014 season concludes, Thimesch and this year's Drury squad have set the bar high for future Panthers to follow - including McCarville.
"One of the toughest things about Mason's transition into Drury could be the fact that he's following in the footsteps of one of the best players and people our program has ever produced in Nick Thimsech," Hanson said. "Nick has blazed a great trail for Mason to follow."