From United High School to Clemson, S.C., to Knoxville, Tenn., to Fort Worth, Texas, and finally, Morgantown, W.Va., baseball has led Randy Mazey on a memorable journey.
Tonight, Mazey will make an important stop in his home region as he joins the Cambria County Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2014.
The West Virginia University head baseball coach will be among five new inductees to the hall during a banquet at the Pasquerilla Conference Center.
“It’s very humbling to be even mentioned in the same breath with a lot of those people,” Mazey said of his fellow inductees and those who preceded them in the Cambria Hall. “It’s hard to even put it into words to what it means to be elected into the hall of fame where you grew up. Memories of not only the games, but also the area in general.”
Mazey starred on the local level at United High. He was among the best players in the Johnstown Junior League in the 1980s and performed well enough in three AAABA Tournaments that he previously was inducted into the AAABA Hall of Fame.
He benefited from a solid baseball foundation. As a youngster, Mazey often tagged along with his father Forrest Mazey, one of the region’s most knowledgeable and respected baseball men prior to his death in 2013. Forrest Mazey managed and coached for decades in the AAABA.
Randy Mazey was a quick learner. He could pitch. He was a solid fielder. He could hit.
The younger Mazey was a key member of the Johnstown franchises which revived the city’s image in the AAABA Tournament with success in the 1980s, particularly during a 3-2 tourney run in 1985.
“The AAABA, the year when we played for Coke in 1985, we opened up with Zanesville and beat them in extra innings,” Mazey said. “We played Lansing and Washington and beat them by the 10-run rule. I hit a three-run homer in the last inning and pitched that game against Washington. That was a lot of fun.
“Then, we played New Orleans, and we both were 3-1. We scored four in the bottom of the ninth to tie it. My brother (Brian) was part of that inning. He and I both got hits in that last inning. I was pitching in the top of the 10th and gave up a run. They hit a ball off the screen to score a run and we lost by one. That tournament is my best memory of Johnstown. The Point Stadium, the character, the great players who played there, the Inclined Plane in the background. It’s an unbelieveable atmosphere.”
Mazey left the tournament and headed for NCAA Division I power Clemson University in South Carolina. A three-time All-Atlantic Coast Conference player as an outfielder-pitcher, Mazey was part of two Clemson ACC titles and the Tigers advanced to the NCAA Regionals twice.
His career .331 batting average was impressive, as was Mazey’s 8-1 career record on the mound.
“I was ahead of the game when I got to college,” Mazey said. “I had a pretty good baseball background because of where I came from. It’s such a good baseball area. My college coaches said I was ahead of everybody else because of my understanding of the game.”
The Cleveland Indians selected Mazey in the 28th round of the 1988 Major League Draft and he played two years in the organization before beginning his coaching career.
Mazey had assistant coaching positions at Clemson (1990-93), Georgia (1997), East Carolina (1998), Tennessee (1999-2002) and Texas Christian University (2007-12), where he also was an associate head coach.
Prior to taking the WVU head coaching job in 2013, Mazey also had top jobs with East Carolina (2003-05) and Charleston Southern (1994-96).
“I’ve been extremely fortunate. I’ve been around a lot of great baseball people, a lot of great coaches, 1,000-game winners,” Mazey said. “It’s an honor to coach against some of those guys. I’ve learned a lot from those people. It’s been a blessing. it’s taken me to a lot of neat places, both Carolinas, Georgia, Texas, Tennessee and now West Virginia. I’ve seen a lot of great things and seen a lot of the country because of baseball.”
As a head coach, Mazey led Charleston Southern to 66 wins in three seasons, and East Carolina to 120 victories in three years.
At WVU, he led a Mountaineers team picked to finish last in the 2013 preseason poll to a 33-26 record, including a 13-11 mark in the Big 12. This spring, WVU went 28-26 overall, 9-14 in the conference.
Mazey has been on the recruiting trail since the season concluded. He was in Atlanta this week prior to returning to his hometown.
“I tell everybody I’m from Johnstown but I went to United High School and graduated with just over 100 people,” Mazey said. “Going from the small school that I went to, to a major Division I school with football and basketball, it was a culture shock.”
Mazey’s career at Clemson inadvertently helped other area athletes wanting to play college baseball.
“Hopefully it opened up some doors for other colleges to come to the Johnstown area and recruit,” said Mazey, who has North Star High graduate Tony Strasiser on his Mountaineers roster. “Hopefully that opened the door for coaches around the country to recognize this is a good baseball area.”
Mike Mastovich is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/masty81.