The Georgia baseball team opens their 2020 season at home in Foley Field on Valentine’s Day, Friday, Feb. 14th with a three-game series against Richmond. Expectations are high this season because the Diamond Dogs are a consensus top-ten baseball team in the preseason polls and could return to Omaha for the first time since 2008. Although the Bulldogs came up short in 2019, we are going to look at five reasons why Omaha is a realistic goal for this year’s team. Reason number four is the return of Bulldogs’ starting catcher Mason Meadows, who plays a pivotal role behind the plate.
Last season, Meadows suffered one of the most peculiar injuries that can happen in baseball. While in the batter’s box, he fouled off a ball that struck the inner part of his helmet, ricocheting into his right eye in a game against LSU.
He suffered a facial fracture that forced him to miss nine games before returning to the lineup. Meadows wore a protective face guard while batting and used a special catcher’s mask for the remainder of the season.
That little setback didn’t seem to affect him as he gears up for the season opener on Friday versus Richmond.
“Faith is a big part of my life, and I just feel blessed to be here every day,” Meadows said. “I get to come out here and do what I love, and a lot of people don’t get that chance. I’m ecstatic to be out here, whether it’s cold, raining, snowing or sleeting, beautiful weather, 75 degrees—I’m just excited to be here.”
Meadows lives by his faith, and it has gotten him through some tough times before.
“It was just another chapter in the book. I think with the story that’s happened in my life, whether it’s my brother passing away from a young age, the hard struggle that I had getting here, going through that redshirt year, little injuries along the way—and then that happened last year,” Meadows said. “I just worked hard, just put my head down through a lot. The Lord has gotten me through a lot. He’s helped me all the way. But determination, grit, and grind are the two things that have really pushed me forward.
“I get to look back on that now and, let’s say I have a bad day, something like I haven’t played or whatever—I can look back and say I’ve been through worse. That’s the thing I keep in the back of my mind.”
Entering this season as a redshirt junior, Meadows has had a long career at UGA. He redshirted his freshman year (2017) as the Bulldogs went 25-32 overall, missing the NCAA Tournament.
In 2018, Meadows batted .289 with three home runs and 25 RBIs in 52 games with 44 starts at catcher. He was named a 2nd Team Freshman All-American by D1Baseball.com and to the Freshman All-SEC team by the league coaches. Meadows set a single-season record for catchers with .998 fielding percentage, making one error in 424 chances; Also threw out 29 percent of base stealers (14 out of 48) and had nine passed balls
That same season, he ranked second on the team with a .421 on-base percentage. His three home runs came in a grand fashion including a sensational first one, a seventh-inning grand slam to beat The Citadel in Charleston; also hit a two-run shot in the eighth inning of a series-clinching win over Alabama on the road, and a three-run home run to break a 4-4 tie in the conference opening series in a victory over Tennessee.
Last season, he appeared in 45 games with 40 starts, all at catcher, and batted .180 with three doubles, three home runs, and 15 RBI. He notched his first career triple in a win over Alabama to end the regular season and smacked a two-run home run versus No. 22 Ole Miss at the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala.
Meadows has proven to his team and to his coaching staff that he can be as reliable as they come, especially behind the plate. Which is a huge asset heading into this season, as he is seen as one of the best catchers in the SEC.
Last season, he fielded .997 with 323 putouts, 41 assists and just one error in 365 total chances. Plus, Meadows threw out 55 percent of would-be base stealers (11 of 20).
He truly has transformed himself into one of Georgia’s best players on the roster.
Meadows was not heavily recruited. He walked on at Georgia, despite having a great senior year at Pope High School where he batted .438 and helped the Greyhounds reach the state championship.
Meadows hopes to continue his greatness as Bulldog this season as a Bulldog.
If you missed parts I-III in our Five Reasons Why Omaha is Realistic for Georgia Baseball, just click on the links below.
Part I: The Return of a Strong Pitching Staff
Part II: C.J. Smith’s Versatility
Part III: The Tate Twins’ Time to Shine