Mason Rose planned for this spring and summer to be a sort of last hurrah for his baseball career.
After transferring to Lewis and Clark High School before his junior year, he was eager to play catcher for the LC varsity baseball team. And after that, he was preparing to play Legion baseball throughout the summer.
The COVID-19 pandemic response put an end to all that, though Rose is holding out hope that some sort of summer league will still be allowed.
But even if baseball is done, Rose said he takes consolation that this fall he’ll look to continue a different playing career – on an ice sheet.
“At first it was pretty hard, but as it’s gone on it’s getting a little easier,” Rose said. “When I got this opportunity, it made things a lot easier.”
Rose was invited to play for the Butte Cobras this fall, one of 36 teams in the North American 3 Hockey League. It is one of three Tier III junior leagues in the United States.
Rose’s hope is to parlay a season in Butte into an opportunity to play elsewhere, either at a college hockey program or the Tier II North American Hockey League. USA Hockey’s top tier is the United States Hockey League.
“I am approaching it with basically everything I have,” he said. “I want to go down there and want to improve. It could lead to another year at a higher level, like a junior team or a scholarship somewhere, but even if it doesn’t, it’s cool to say I made it farther than most people.”
Rose started playing hockey when he was young and got hooked on the sport as many Spokane-area players do: by attending a Spokane Chiefs game. But then he took a break from the sport at age 11 to turn his focus to baseball.
Three years ago he started playing both sports again. He played baseball at North Central before transferring to LC, while also refereeing some hockey games and playing center for the Spokane Jr. Chiefs 18U Select hockey team last season.
“Obviously he’s very skilled,” said Jerry Harwood, who was an assistant coach on that 18U select team, “but on top of that, he works really hard to do the right things as far as regaining puck control, playing defense, and he has a real competitive drive.”
Leigh Rose, Mason’s uncle, coached that team as well.
“It’s a milestone for him,” Leigh Rose said. “(Mason) wants it, I know he has the drive for it.”
But Leigh Rose said he also cautioned his nephew about the difference between being a 19-year-old and a 16-year-old in a Tier III junior league, and that Mason’s potential role on a junior team could be that of a model for the younger players to look up to.
Junior leagues are allowed to carry a limited number of 20-year-olds. Mason’s challenge, then, is to make a strong impression with the Cobras and at any of the various showcase events the NA3HL hosts – pandemic permitting – to extend his career at least another season.
Rose said he heard about the team from Robby Arver, who played for the Cobras last season but before that was a member of the Spokane Jr. Chiefs.
“It was a great experience,” Arver said of last season, when he played as a 17-year-old. “My expectation going into the year was to get onto the ice and play. … I kinda blazed my own path somewhere, and that’s what I was proud of.”
For now Arver is back in Spokane preparing to graduate from West Valley High, where he attended before playing – and going to school – last season in Montana.
Arver has a tryout with an NAHL team scheduled in July, he said, provided it isn’t postponed because of the pandemic. If he doesn’t get the chance to play for an NAHL team, then returning to Butte is an option.
Two weeks ago, Rose signed with the Cobras and plans to be there if and when the team opens its camp in August.
“It feels pretty good,” he said. “Sports were always a big part of my life, and to be able to keep playing is pretty cool.”
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.