The Official Blog of Mason Athletics

Who is the Mason Baseball Toughman? And Why You Should Remember the Name Zack Helgeson

If you’re not a college baseball fan, it’s easy to forget that there’s a fall season for college baseball. In the past, that meant games against other schools with stats and the whole shebang. These days, it means lots of intersquad games and individual work. For the first time, an MVP for the fall season was given out. Winning the 2010 Mark Gibbs Fall Baseball MVP award (as voted on by players and coaches) was Zack Helgeson.

A junior transfer from Pitt Community College, Helgeson had an interesting path to Mason. He signed with Maryland out of Hidden Valley High School in Roanoke but transferred when the Terrapins made a coaching change. Now he’s slated to start at first for the Patriots and bat in the middle of the order. Helgeson made a splash as a H.S. senior when he won the Power Showcase Home Run Derby. That’s the same event in which 2010 No. 1 overall pick Bryce Harper hit his 502-foot home run. Helgeson hit 8 homers in the preliminary round and eight in the championship round including a 465-foot blast. Here’s a Helgeson highlight video from the event (the bombs start about two minutes in) which included a shot onto the catwalk.

Fall baseball also means one other thing. It also means the Mason Toughman Challenge.

Now in its third season, the Mason Toughman Challenge has two winners – one for the positional players and one for the pitchers. They compete in nine events with 10 points awarded for first, eight for second, six for third, four for fourth and two for fifth. In 2008, Brent Weiss won the positional player competition while Shawn Griffith won the pitcher’s award. In 2009, Ryan Pfaeffle won the pitchers award while Chris Cook took home the positional players award. This year, freshman Blaise Fernandez won the positional players challenge (just ahead of Brig Tison) while Brandon Kuter and Pfaeffle tied amongst the pitchers.

The events in the Toughman Challenge are hill climbs, two-mile run, wall sits, bows and toes, six-inch flutter, dodgeball, farmer’s walk, step-ups and an obstacle course. The hill climbs seem straight forward but it’s not just climbing a hill as many times as you can in five minutes. You do the climb with a bucket of 50 balls in each hand. Kuter and Pfaeffle tied for first in that event with 23 ¼. The two-mile run Kuter took first in 12 minutes and 42 seconds.

The wall sit has a player leaning against a wall in a seated position (not seated mind you, but in the seated position) with a sandbag on their legs. Josh Turner was second in that in 12:38. Pfaeffle destroyed everyone in that event finishing in 23:08. Bows and toes has players on their elbows and toes to see how long they can last in that position. Cook won that in 8:09 while Leonardo was second in 6:54.

The six-inch flutter has a player lying on their back and they have to keep their legs moving and at least six inches off the ground. Josh Leemhuis and Leonardo dominated with Leehmuis winning in 21:02 and Leonardo second in 20:28. T.J. O’Grady was a very distant third in 12:44. Dodgeball was a team competition but individuals earned two points for a kill, two points for a catch and three points if you were on the court alive in the game when your team won. Dan Gerjets picked up 18 points to win that event.

The farmer’s walk had players going the length of a basketball court and back (about 190 feet) with weighsts in each hand. Position players had 60 pounds while pitchers had 50 pounds (the lower weight designed to keep too much stress off their shoulders. Dan Schafferman came out on tops for the position players with 5.4 trips. Chris O’Grady, with the slightly lower weight, won amongst pitchers with 12.2 trips.

The step-ups ( “we stole that from ‘The Biggest Loser,’” assistant coach Steve Hay said) saw Grejets do 376 in five minutes with Kuter second with 353. The final event as the obstacle course. That began with a cross country run, followed by doing the stairs at Spuhler Field, then came hurdles and cones, followed by the army crawl on the hill, then a backwards bear crawl into barrel rolls, followed by crawling through the tarp, then some more stairs and finally carrying two buckets of 50-balls each from home plate to the 400-foot sign in centerfield and back. Kuter won that in 25:32.

The baseball season starts on Feb. 18 at USC Upstate.


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