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Conversations with the Herd: Mason Fluharty

By: Brian Frank

Bisons left-handed reliever Mason Fluharty grew up in Delaware, where he helped lead the Cape Henlopen High School baseball team to a Delaware State Championship during his junior season.

“That was the first time our school won a state championship,” Fluharty said in a recent interview with The Herd Chronicles. “It was a great group of guys, some of my best friends growing up. It was cool that we were able to accomplish that.”

“I was on the mound for the final out,” he continued. “It was really cool. I struck the last guy out and it was a dogpile after that. It was awesome. One of the best memories in my life.”

After graduating from Cape Henlopen, Fluharty pitched for Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, for three seasons. His freshman season was shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic. His sophomore year, he had a 4.37 ERA in 22 2/3 innings pitched, and his senior season he had a 2.84 ERA in 50 2/3 innings.

Fluharty has a 3.94 ERA for the Herd this season. Photo Credit: Brian Frank, The Herd Chronicles

It was at Liberty where his pitching repertoire evolved and he developed his cutter and slider.

“In college, my freshman year, I came in and I was a fastball-changeup-curveball guy,” he recalled. “Just like a soft lefty. I really didn’t know where the ball was going. I worked a lot with the pitching coach there. I ended up doing a lot of drills over time with the weighted balls and stuff. My hand started wrapping around the ball a little bit and it ended up becoming a cutter. I tried to fix it a few times, but it didn’t work, so we just kept rolling with it.”

“I picked up (my slider) just naturally wrapping my hand around the ball,” he continued. “I still have the same grip, but my curveball just eventually, with my hand placement and how my mechanics work, I just naturally wrap my hand around the ball and came up with a pretty good slider.”

His college career culminated in an outing against Central Michigan in the NCAA tournament.

“I went five innings,” he remembered. “I came in during the seventh inning during regionals. It was a do or die game. We either win or we go home. I ended up coming in during the seventh inning of a tie ball game and I didn’t come out until the 11th. I didn’t know I could go that long.”

Fluharty ended up firing five perfect innings with five strikeouts, before being replaced. Unfortunately, Central Michigan scored a run in the bottom of the 12th inning to win the game 3-2.

Even though the loss to Central Michigan ended his college career, Fluharty’s baseball career was far from over. The Blue Jays selected him in the fifth round of the 2022 MLB June Amateur Draft.

“I was at home,” he said of draft day. “We had a little get together. I kind of knew I was going to go the second day. I had a bunch of my friends and family over. I got a call in the morning from the Jays. I didn’t actually think I was going to get drafted by the Jays, there were a lot of other opportunities out there – but it ended up working out with the Jays. I couldn’t be happier with where I’m at and how it’s gone so far. They believe highly in me and I’m super excited that I'm playing for a whole country, not just an MLB team.”

After being drafted, he reported to the Blue Jays’ player development complex in Dunedin. Florida, to begin his professional baseball career.

“It was a pretty wild transition,” he said. “Just because for draft camp, we were down in Dunedin. I threw two lives and they didn’t tell me anything. They don’t say anything about where you’re going. Everyone just kind of assumes that you’re going to go to Low-A. After my second live outing in draft camp, the pitching coordinator came up to me and was like, ‘Hey, you’re going to get on a flight and go to Miami tomorrow for your one-day passport. So, let us know how that goes and we’ll see from there.’ They still didn’t tell me anything. I ended up getting my passport and the next day, they were like, ‘Hey, you’re going to Vancouver.’ T.J. Brock, one of my best friends, and I flew out to Eugene, Oregon, for our first professional week there.”

Fluharty uses a cutter-slider combo to attack hitters. Photo Credit: Brian Frank, The Herd Chronicles

Fluharty put up solid numbers in his first professional season, posting a 3.52 ERA and recording 21 strikeouts in 15 1/3 innings pitched at Vancouver.

“It’s definitely life changing moving to the west coast right off the bat because we’re both from the east coast,” he said. “It was definitely different. My family had to watch the games at 12:00, 1:00 in the morning. But yeah, it was definitely good for us and it worked out pretty well. Vancouver is a lot of fun.”

In 2023, Fluharty began the season in Vancouver, where he dominated – posting a 0.59 ERA and striking out 21 batters in 15 1/3 innings pitched. He was promoted to Double-A New Hampshire in late May, and continued to impress. In 42 1/3 innings pitched for the Fisher Cats, he had a 4.25 ERA and struck out 54 batters. He believes he learned a lot that season.

“Just going through the day by day, learning my routines, understanding how to be able to go three days a week – it’s a lot different than college, where you’re going two days a week and sometimes three,” he explained. “But you only have four games (per week) in college. Here you have six days a week. So, just understanding my body. Understanding how I need to be ready to go every day. It really helped me for this year, understanding that I could be going every day in Triple-A. Setting that foundation last year, understanding my body, understanding my routines – not to change anything, even when stuff’s not going my way. Just understanding that I can keep doing what I’m doing and just go out there and getting outs.”

After being a invited to big-league camp during spring training, Fluharty began the 2024 season with Buffalo. His Triple-A debut came in the Bisons’ second game of the season, when he came in to pitch the eighth inning against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders – and he promptly struck out the side.

“It was definitely a good start,” he said. “I was just trying to attack and stick to my game plan. It worked out very well. Just keep it rolling and stay with my plan of attacking hitters.”

Fluharty has been used frequently out of the Bisons bullpen. Bisons manager Casey Candaele often uses the young southpaw as a multi-inning reliever

“I know my role,” Fluharty said. “My role is to come in and face lefties. That’s what I do, I come in and face lefties and I just want to attack them and get my outs. Going multiple innings is more of a mindset of just keep going until you shake the hand of Casey. Just keep rolling and attack hitters. It’s definitely a mindset to go multiple innings, to stay locked in. I feel like I do a pretty good job of staying locked in.”

Fluharty is excited to be pitching for a Bisons team with a deep lineup capable of  lighting up the scoreboard.

“You can expect a whole lot of offense,” he said of what fans can expect to see from the Herd this season. “Our bullpen is really good. Our starters are really good. Our guys are good at attacking hitters. I think the one thing Bisons fans can really look forward to is a whole lot of offense. We have a lot of good hitters, Orelvis (Martinez), Damiano (Palmegiani), Will Robertson, Lanti (Rafael Lantigua), I mean you can go down the whole lineup – (Nathan) Lukes, Spencer (Horwitz), you can go down the whole line and it’s just a bunch of dogs. They’re fun to watch. Even when our pitching’s not there for a day, we can always rely on them to get us back in the game and give ourselves a chance. If we’re down 5-0, we know we’re still in it. That’s fun to pitch behind. Our defense is pretty sharp too. We’ve got Stewie (Steward Berroa) in the outfield. We’ve got Cam (Eden). It’s really a fun team to watch.”


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