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Bockoven seizing the day

Dodger senior and his teammates ramp up their sense of urgency

Messenger photo by Britt Kudla Mason Bockoven of Fort Dodge leaps to catch a line drive in a substate game last season.

Mason Bockoven got down to brass tacks in an old-school approach to the baseball season once the global pandemic hit in mid-March.

Fort Dodge’s “Bat Cave” indoor hitting facility was closed. Social distancing became the norm. Coaches weren’t allowed to directly contact players. Weight rooms were shut down.

“We basically had to fend for ourselves,” said Bockoven, the Dodgers’ senior shortstop and pitcher. “I actually liked it. It was kind of a personal challenge to all of us: how bad do you want it? You had to dig deep. There was no structure. So you had to settle into a routine. Track your own schedule. Motivate yourself.

“I focused more on fielding when we weren’t able to hit as much. I’d throw tennis balls off the garage door, or work on drills in the yard with my (younger) brother (Triston, a sophomore) and just play catch. Whatever it took to get ready in case we had a season.”

The hard work has paid off in more ways than one for Bockoven, a three-year regular in the Fort Dodge lineup. Once the state cleared to resume activities on June 1 despite on-going COVID-19 concerns, Bockoven and his teammates hit the field with a renewed sense of urgency.

The Dodgers are 9-5 overall, and Bockoven ranks in Class 4A’s Top-5 for home runs (tied for first with 4) RBI (third with 19) and total bases (35) while batting .400.

Bockoven set a new school record by driving in 12 runs during FDSH’s doubleheader sweep of Des Moines Roosevelt last week. He hit a grand slam and a three-run homer in the same inning.

“We’re just thankful that we have a chance to play,” said Bockoven, a second team all-CIML Iowa Conference selection after batting .375 with 31 RBI last year. “So many places have been affected (by the coronavirus), even in our own community. So we just take things one day and one game at a time, grateful for the opportunities we do get. We’re focusing on the here and now more than ever, just trying to go 1-0 with each game.”

The Dodgers have less than two weeks left in their regular season, with substate action starting July 17. They play at Des Moines Hoover on Monday, then face rival Mason City at McNeil Field this Wednesday.

Second-ranked Johnston (13-3), No. 6 Sioux City East (13-1) and Ames (9-3) are all in Fort Dodge’s substate. The Dodgers have won nine of their last 11 contests, though, heading into this week’s slate.

“One of the biggest things we wanted to focus on was pushing the narrative that we weren’t going to be intimidated,” Bockoven said. “I think in the past we went into too many games just hoping to win. The goal now is to expect to win every time out.

“I think we’re confident and will be ready to play no matter what (the postseason brings). We really pull for each other, and everyone embraces their roles. It’s not about us as individuals — it’s what can we accomplish as a team.”

Bockoven, who has played in close to 100 career varsity games, called suiting up for the Dodgers “one of the biggest impacts I’ve had on my life.”

“Nothing’s ever given to you. You have to earn everything,” said Bockoven, who is going into the family business and working for Superior Siding in Fort Dodge when baseball is done. “As a smaller town and smaller school (in the CIML), you have to compete and work harder than everyone else if you want to succeed. You can’t rely solely on numbers or talent. It drives you and motivates you being from Fort Dodge, which is a great lesson once you get into the real world.”

TIMEOUT WITH MASON BOCKOVEN

Vacation destination: Colorado.

People I would like to have dinner with: Donald Trump and Tim Tebow.

It would surprise people that I: am really interested in the stock market.

My sports role model: Tim Tebow.

My everyday role model: my dad.

Nickname: Mas.

Superstition: playing catch with Nick Bice and Brycen Bell before every game.

Most heated rivalry: Mason City.

Favorite road trip: Johnston.

What are you listening to right now? Kip Moore and other country music.

Favorites…

Team: Minnesota Twins.

Class: government.

Movie: “Warrior” and “300.”

Phone app: Twitter.

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