Chris Mazza played on the Clayton Valley High School varsity baseball team in 2007 and 2008, primarily as an infielder, and pitched a total of 2-1/3 innings. He made his Major League Baseball debut for the New York Mets on June 29 and threw four innings.
The time between his graduation from CVHS 11 years ago and now has seen Mazza become an MLB-calibre pitcher after stops in Atherton for college, minor league professional teams in Tennessee, Iowa, Florida, Louisiana, Arkansas and New York and on independent league teams in Maryland and California.
Before wearing the blue and orange of the New York Mets is his career summit so far, the 29-year-old from Clayton has also been on minor league teams with the monikers of the Baby Cakes, Travelers, Rumble Ponies, Hammerheads, Suns, Jumbo Shrimps, Kernels, Marlins, Twins, Blue Crabs and Pacifics.
Mazza had been having an excellent 2019 for the Mets International League team in Syracuse. In fact, he was twice named the International League Pitcher of the Week, the only player to get the league honor two times this season. Right after getting that second recognition he was watching a Mets-Phillies game on tv when his Triple-A Syracuse coach Tony DeFrancesco called him to say he was being sent to the big club.
The righthander says the emotion of waiting eight years for such a call poured out. DeFrancesco was giving him instructions on what he needed to do in order to get to the Mets in Philadelphia but Mazza barely took it all in before hanging up and making an even more emotional call to his dad Bob.
“It’s something you dream of as a kid and to finally get here, it’s like an overwhelming excitement,” Mazza told the media in the Mets clubhouse on his first day as a big leaguer. “I’m just trying to take it one minute at a time.”
When he was a junior infielder at Clayton Valley he was 5-9 and 145 pounds for coach Casey Coakley. He grew three inches by the next year. His CVHS teams made it to the North Coast Section playoff semi-finals both years.
He also played for Herc Pardi on the Ugly Eagles football team. The coach says Mazza “was a total team guy! Great kid. This couldn’t have happened to a better guy. Returns every spring to help coach Coakley with our players. Has never forgotten his roots.”
Pardi was the pitching coach for the Eagles baseball team when Mazza would come by as he was preparing for his Menlo College seasons. “I was stunned by his growth spurt each spring [Mazza is now 6-4, 180 pounds] and I had him at 90 mph plus on the radar gun in an early season workout one year.”
He went to Menlo to play shortstop but became a relief pitcher over this three years at the Atherton school, helping the Oaks change their program around and qualify for NAIA post-season play for the first time his junior year. He was then selected by the Minnesota Twins in the 27th round of the 2011 draft.
The next spring, he began his eight seasons of the nomadic journey so many MLB dreamers travel in search of a call up to “the bigs.”
“There was never a time that I wanted to quit,” Mazza told reporters in his first clubhouse interview. “But there were times where [I thought] ‘Is this going to happen? When is it going to happen?’” He explained he had coaches along the way who reminded him that he needed to keep doing his thing, because his time would come.
Mazza kept grinding. This year he had success for the Mets AA Binghamton and AAA Syracuse teams. In fact, Mazza was optioned back to Syracuse in order to be a part of the International League All-Star team that played the Pacific Coast League All-Stars in El Paso July 11.
The next day he was back on the mound for the Mets to make his second appearance, this time in Florida against the Miami Marlins. During his minor league time Mazza pitched for four different teams in Florida. He says, “I’ve got the rest of my life for a real job. Just play the game as long as you can.”