Ryan Mason understands the occasional double take.
From certain angles, with his distinctive facial features and long dark hair, the Placer High School senior pitcher could be confused for Giants ace Tim Lincecum.
But once Mason stands, there is no confusion. He is a towering 6-foot-6, while the compact Lincecum is a stretch at 5-11.
"I get Tim Lincecum a lot a little bit because of the hair and the face," Mason said. "He's my favorite player because he's got nasty stuff. But we have completely different pitching styles."
Mason would like to show Lincecum his own style of pitching someday in the major leagues, where he's wanted to be since he was barely out of diapers.
"When I was 3, I'd throw a tennis ball in the cross-hairs of the couch all day long," Mason said. "I'd do it for so long my parents would finally say at night, 'Enough.' "
Although he could spend all day, every day in a baseball endeavor of some sort, he's no one-dimensional jock. He maintains a 3.85 grade-point average, looks to major in sports psychology in college and for pleasure, mind you likes to study theoretical astronomy.
Because of his grades, size and power sinker, Mason is headed to Cal on scholarship.
The Bears' baseball program was briefly axed before a last-ditch fundraising push got it reinstated just before what was to be its swan-song season last spring.
Against the longest of odds, the Bears reached the College World Series in 2011 for the first time since 1992.
"You could see by watching them on TV that they were a family, not just a team," said Mason, who didn't think he had a chance at playing at the Pacific-12 Conference level at the time. "Their resiliency was amazing."
Mason understands resiliency.
After a shining sophomore season in which he pitched a no-hitter, a one-hitter and was the team's ace, Mason pitched sporadically as a junior because of stiffness in his right throwing shoulder.
"He had a tough spell last season," said Placer coach John Hilton. "He had some shoulder-nerve issues. It was really upsetting for him because he wasn't able to pitch as effectively as he would have liked."
Mason sought help from a Roseville physical therapist, who helped him work through his issues. Upon returning to the mound, he pitched well against top competition last summer for the Colorado Rockies' development team. Well enough that he caught the attention of Mike Neu, Cal's pitching coach who played at Sacramento City College before pitching for the A's.
Unless he gets drafted and signs a pro contract this summer, Mason will join a half-dozen area players at Cal, including Oak Ridge's Kyle Porter, who made three freshman All-America teams in 2011.
"It's just a great fit for me," Mason said. "Coach Neu is really genuine and will help me develop my game, and I love the campus and the area Berkeley is diverse. It's a big change from Auburn, but I'll enjoy that."
Mason has one bit of unfinished business.
He'd like to help Placer reach the playoffs for the first time since the Hillmen won the Division IV section title in 2009.
Although Placer is 2-3 in the Pioneer Valley League, the Hillmen played well in this week's River City Classic tournament reaching Wednesday's championship game which has boosted the team's confidence.
Mason and senior A.J. Sanchez provide a nice one-two punch on the mound, while 6-4, 295-pound junior Eddie Vanderdoes delivers the wallop as a closer and spot starter.
On Monday, the left-handed Vanderdoes struck out 16 batters and allowed one hit in six innings in a 9-3 win over Churchill County of Fallon, Nev.
"You could see from an early age (Vanderdoes) was going to be a big thing, a special athlete," Mason said. "He's always had a presence. He's extremely athletic and runs so fast for someone who is 300 pounds."