FORT WAYNE, IN – Sitting in the empty rotunda of the Memorial Coliseum, Fort Wayne Komets forward, Mason Baptista had just come from practice at the Ice House and sat with me for a few minutes. One thing I was not prepared for was how laid back he is. On the ice, he does what Coach Gary Graham asks of him, off the ice it is a different story.
Mason came to the Komets at the end of the 2015-16 season. He was acquired in a trade and only skated in 15 games. In those games, he recorded his first hat trick, had four goals and five assists. This season he has played in 49 games, has 13 goals and 13 assists.
The Sin Bin: First off, what is your favorite movie?
Mason Baptista: Well most people probably are not going to like this answer; favorite movie is actually “V for Vendetta.” It’s an older movie, well I guess older is relative to the individual. I really like it because of the detail that went into the whole movie and how the whole plot developed. I liked how it picked away at society’s dysfunctional patterns, I enjoyed it thoroughly.
TSB: What motivates you to go out and play your best?
MB: I guess the simplest way to explain it is I enjoy doing it. I don’t need extra motivation. I have been doing it for such a long time and the only reason that I continue to do it is because I enjoy it. It brings me pleasure to step out on the ice. One of the best feelings that I have is when I get to tie my skates up. It is a weird feeling that I get it is like you almost get this rush of endorphins. It is just amazing when I can tie my skates up and step out on the ice. What motivates me is to continue playing, it is a great feeling every time I step out on the ice.
TSB: A lot of fans have noticed that you spend time on the bench juggling before a game. How did that come about?
MB: This past summer, I was working on this theory from a couple different guys on Instagram that if you were practicing for five minutes a day you can learn a new skill quickly. So, I thought, “okay, what is something that I can test myself and can test this out”. I was like, “hey, juggling that seems practical.” It was something I always like doing. It is good for hand-eye coordination. It is something fun to joke around with and then it just turned into a skill that I can do fairly well. For me, it helps me to clear my head, specifically for me it helps me to do that. It helps me to focus on one thing at a time. I am an over-thinker naturally so it turned into that type of thing where I enjoyed doing it as well and it is fun. It keeps me level headed.
TSB: I have noticed now that Garrett Bartus is juggling as well.
MB: All goalies do it. I think all goalies are told at some time in their career to try juggling or have been taught it because of the hand-eye coordination side of it. It is not going to be a mystery that goalies do it.
TSB: I have never seen Pat Nagle juggle though.
MB: I am sure he can probably do it. His hand-eye coordination is amazing!
MB: Hobby? Uh oh, okay. I have two things I do on the side where I spend most of my days outside of the rink. The first thing is called Baps Hockey. I enjoy teaching kids to play hockey and my own development is very important to me so I spend one-half of my day on hockey analytics. So, I spend time watching every goal in the NHL with criteria I worked on with Ron Johnson. He is a hockey skills coach I work with him from time to time. He is like the hockey guru so I work with him and use some of the criteria that he uses to analyze goals. On my Baps Hockey Facebook page, I put up five different situations in the NHL that I watch that show a specific skill that I worked on myself or I am using during the summer to help kids to develop their game.
The other side is called FPBaps and that is a little bit broader but basically, I have a blog and a Facebook page for that. Basically, that is uncovering the inconvenient truths of society that you find in your everyday life. Mainly I focus on movement and training so I focus on the medical field specifically like the abuse of pharmaceutical drugs and how you can analyze your own environment and diet and kind of looking at things like this is going to be a head splitter, but looking at things from the quantum level. So, the very smallest particles, you are looking at electrons and protons, so I do a lot of research and write articles daily on that stuff. I just finished one and it is called “Be a Questioner, Peel the Onion Back of Society”.
TSB: I must check that page out, if I can find it on Facebook
MB: Oh, you will be able to, I post almost every single day. I don’t really like social media, I usually use it to post that stuff and then I get off it. I quit social media for about three to four months. I just quit cold turkey and I wasn’t on it at all. Now I am back on it a little bit more just because I have a lot more material I like to put up but that is a whole different story.
TSB: If you were not playing hockey, what do you think you would be doing?
MB: I honestly don’t know. I don’t believe in structure so much that you see today in society. Today everyone is built on having a plan, let’s have goals, let’s have a structure and I think when you see life that way. I think that system is very faulty because it destroys creativity, it creates tunnel vision. You lose sight of potential opportunities around you. I think the biggest thing for me right now as a hockey player functional patterns Baptista and Baps Hockey. It is just developing myself and developing value and competence as a human being. With those skills, whichever opportunities open up, I can jump on them. It is about being open and creating value. No offense to anyone, to each their own, but I am not just sitting playing video games, other guys like to read and others like to just do nothing. I enjoy creating value in myself by expanding my knowledge and researching these different areas.
TSB: What is the best advice you have been given?
MB: The best advice I have been given, I have had a lot of good advice but the one most consistent is from my mom and she always said “if you really want something in your life, you have to go for it not matter what”, and she didn’t say it, I am paraphrasing, but she said it more with her actions because long story short, the way I came about was quite a trip and my mom always wanted to have a child. Through experiences and through her life experiences and through my own life, I see that when you want something, you must invest everything you have in yourself as there is no point in going half in it.
Again, my mom always gave me the opportunity to play hockey, I think that is part of why I value it so much cause I see the investment she put into it. And she went all out, and that is the way I am going about things, I really don’t have a plan on anything else, I am going all out on this, I am not stretching myself in other areas, this is what I want to do and I am going to see it through to the end.
TSB: If I were to follow you around for a day, what would I be shocked to learn about you?
MB: Oh dear!
TSB: Shawn Szydlowski said I would be bummed, he said he was quite boring.
MB: Your head might split open again, I am stealing this quote from a doctor named Jack Cruise and he uses it a lot. When people kind of step into my shoes, if they followed me, they would be like “wow, what is going on?” You would be shocked to learn that I spend a lot of time on research, you would see that I spend a lot of time reading, I am writing, I am constantly looking for different answers. I am researching this type of information, and I am obsessed with light. I believe that light, and it has been proven scientifically, that light is critical for human life. So, you will walk into my place before seven o’clock, which is typically when the sun sets, I will have a UVA light, it is a purple light basically from the sun and I will have that on in the room basically to balance out blue light from our TV or any other type of device that’s emitting it. At seven o’clock, you will see a red light, I will put a red light on for two to three hours and just soak in red light. Again, you would be like “what is going on?” I am big on cold therapy. Some days I will sit in the cold tub. I broke the time for being in the cold tub for 25 minutes. I just spend my time doing stuff like that. I test myself constantly. I enjoy the cold, as you notice I am in shorts in freezing winter. The cold doesn’t bother me anymore.
TSB: What do you feel you bring to the team?
MB: What I knew coming in was we are going to have a lot of good hockey players and we were going to have a well-balanced team. For me, it was about being a very versatile player, I am whatever the team needs me to be. If the team needs me to score goals, I step in and try to do that to the best of my ability. If the teams needs me to block shots by playing more defensively, I do that to the best of my ability. If the team needs me to be a lunatic out there and kind of stir some stuff up, I do that. So, I fit in whatever role the teams needs me at that very moment. Personally, I think that is hard to find, that is how we create value and the type of player I am, I try to be the utility guy. I fit in with any role the team needs, on the power play, the PK, that is the type of person I am, I fill whatever role is necessary.
TSB: What would you say is your biggest accomplishment?
MB: The biggest accomplishment for me right now that I hold real value to is winning two National Championships with Saint Norbert College. I know I always wanted to go D1 but then the opportunity opened where I got to go to Saint Norbert College. I was pushed in ways I never thought I would be pushed and it led to winning two championships and building the foundation to who I am now. I was whatever the team needed me to be. Whatever the boys needed, whatever the coaching staff asked me to do, I did what was necessary to help us win. I’ll never forget those moments and experiences I had during those championship runs and I look to use those experiences to help bring back a championship here to Fort Wayne.
TSB: Now last year, you played only a few games in Fort Wayne and this year you have been with the team the whole season. How do you compare last season to this season?
MB: I feel a lot more part of the team. Whereas last year, I am not saying I didn’t feel like a part of the team. But I came in and I was just a filler and was just trying to help the team. They needed some guys because a lot of guys were called up. I do whatever the coach asks me to do, whatever they ask me. I feel like I am more a part of the team, I feel I have been able to help the team in all the areas I mentioned in different contexts, whichever time throughout the season. The groups are one of the closest groups I have ever been in since my freshmen year of college, this is one of the closest teams I have ever been on. That is very rare in pro hockey, which I learned very quickly. It seems to be like a revolving door. I appreciate the opportunity to just be a part of it and play a significant role to help the team win each night.
TSB: Now we are going to do a little bit of a speed round…
TSB: Favorite video game?
MB: Don’t play video games.
TSB: Favorite color?
TSB: What is your karaoke go to song? Or a song you would pick out for one of your teammates?
MB: This is from college but “Give Me Love” by Ed Sheeran, I can sing that one out pretty good.
TSB: Things that annoy you the most?
MB: Just depends, I don’t really know what really annoys me. I am pretty easy going it takes a lot to annoy me.
TSB: What is a weird quirk that you have?
MB: I wear blue light blocking glasses
TSB: Name one song off your iPod that you listen to before a game
MB: “Rise” by Katy Perry. I used to listen to that a couple of times before games. The Olympics did a great job picking that one.
Thanks to Mason Baptista for sitting down and having a conversation.