Collin Mahoney was a high school hero leading his team to the NYC Catholic High School Championship in 2000, was named the New York Daily News Player-of-the-Year in 2000 and 2001, was the Catholic High School Archdiocese of New York MVP in 2001, the number 1 high school prospect in New York and the number 60th rank prospect in the nation in 2001 – all this as a catcher. Mahoney threw exactly six innings between the age of 12 and the end of high school. His calling was as a catcher and he fully expected to be playing catcher in professional baseball.
Mahoney entered the 2001 Amateur draft and he expected to be drafted early in the draft. Rumors were floating around that Mahoney was demanding one million dollars or he would not sign, as a result he fell all the way to the 48th round, when the Angels finally selected him.
"I have no idea where those rumors came from" said Mahoney, "however what I found out what the learning experience of the draft process."
The Angels however offered Mahoney a significant amount of money in the six figures. However, the title of being a 48th round pick pretty much made up Collin's mind on what his future would hold, despite the offer of $300,000 on the table.
"They offered me a ton of money and they actually made it pretty difficult, but being that I was a 48th round pick it just basically made my decision for me."
"I could not have been happier going to Clemson, and getting that college experience."
Mahoney went to Clemson, however struggled hitting the ball. After batting .266 his freshman season, he batted just .200 his second season and it appeared Mahoney made a wrong decision, as the chances of him now playing professional baseball looked very dim.
It was after his second season that Mahoney and a friend of his were in the bullpen and they happened to spot a radar gun on the ground. Mahoney was challenged to see how fast he could pitch, and with one pitch he reached 95 mph on the gun. Immediately the future was beginning to shape up for Mahoney. How the radar gun ended up on the bullpen ground was unknown, however that very moment, changed his professional path forever.
"I am goofing off in the bullpen and throw a blazing fastball, it was unbelievable and I still can't believe it."
At that point his coaches felt it was time to get him into a game and see what he could do exactly. Mahoney's first two pitches reached 97 and 98 mph on the gun.
"At that point I was still debating whether or not to make the transition to a full time pitcher" said Mahoney, however the decision has already been made for him.
"Before I could make a decision for myself I realized my coaches had already taken away my catching equipment and my catching glove. They told me ‘here is a normal glove, and hang on to it."
Mahoney is still trying to make the transition from being a catcher to a pitcher and at times still finds it difficult.
"It was a very weird transition just in the sense that as a catcher you are involved in every pitch of every game, and now to just sit and hope you get an inning or two is difficult."
"However, the mental aspect of a catcher and a late inning reliever is pretty much the same. They both need to be a tough guy, hard nose attitude which I think it has helped me a lot."
Mahoney missed the little things of catching. He misses catching a bullpen session, he missed all the hard work he put in blocking balls, and he misses taking batting practice. This new experience however has given Collin a second life though. He now comes to the park every day and is picking everyone's brain, and he enjoys that experience that much more.
Although his stats right now are not anything to be impressed with, it does not bother Mahoney. His performance and stats are secondary at this point. Mahoney's main goal for this season was to get his arm in shape to be a professional pitcher. In college he pitched once or twice a week, and now he needs to get his arm into shape to pitch those back to back days consistently.
Recently Mahoney made a step towards his development that neither him nor his family believed would happen. Mahoney pitched four times in a span of eight days and threw on back to back days for the first time every.
"My father and I were joking around two months ago that if I ever threw back to back days the next morning we would be down with Dr. Andrews getting arm surgery" Mahoney said. "Just making the stride that my arm is in the shape that it needs to be to be a relief pitcher is more than I ever expected."
Despite striking out nearly a batter an inning, Mahoney has also given up his share of walks, however that is because he is still learning how to locate his fastball and getting used to a slider, and changeup, in which he never has thrown before.
"It doesn't matter how hard you throw, if you don't locate your fastball you will get hit badly. One day my changeup is outstanding and my slider is real good and the next day I have no idea where I am throwing it to. It is just a matter of consistency and that is the one thing I am working on right now."
The hardest part for Collin has been just sitting around the bullpen waiting for that phone call. He has gone from thinking every single moment of the game, in terms of what pitch to call, what the hitter did the previous at bat, and how to get the hitter out this time, to just watching the game from the outfield wall.
"It is just so much different, but what I have taken away from it is that there are so many other things you pick up, that I would have never seen from behind the plate, that I really have started to enjoy."
"Then to be called on and you're the center of attention right then and there, that is probably the toughest part."
Mahoney was a little disappointed when he heard the first two rounds go by and his name was not called. He was expected to be drafted earlier than the fourth round, and the Diamondbacks were a team that showed serious interest.
"I guess I fell victim to the hype" he says.
"I was hurt a little about it at first but afterwards when I had some time to think about it I realized I was a 4th round pick, and that is not something you should be ashamed of, or disappointed of. It kind of got to the point that I could not be any happier with how things turned out."
Mahoney is looking forward to the end of the season, however not because it will be the time for him to relax, but the time for him to work even harder to get better.
"When this season is over I will look back and say I have a lot of hard work ahead of me to get better and that really motivates me. I would much rather have things being harder for me than easier. I am such a hard worker."
"I enjoy putting in all that work, because I know I can only get better."