Former Watson Chapel standout Collin Massanelli was expected to redshirt during his first season on the Arkansas State baseball team.
Massanelli was right, he would be redshirted, but only because he would be wearing the red-colored Red Wolves’ jersey during the season.
Arkansas State coach Tommy Raffo thought enough of Massanelli to put him in a platoon in the outfield. Massanelli normally sits against left-handed pitching.
“Honestly, I thought I was going to redshirt because we have a lot of outfields,” Massanelli said. “But I guess they liked me and they said I have a lot of potential, so I am kind of a starter.”
The season did not get off to a good start for Massanelli, though. The freshman missed the first 10 games of the season and did not hit so well in his first few games.
“I start out pretty slow and missed the first 10 games due to injury, so I wasn’t too happy about that,” Massanelli said. “Once I got to play, I was nervous at first, but I started to settle down and started to play well.”
Massanelli did just settle down. By the end of the year, he looked quite comfortable at the plate. He ended the year with the second-highest batting average on the team at .327 in 101 at bats. He played in 33 games and scored 17 runs and drove in 14.
The stats do not reflect how the freshman year has gone for Massanelli. He admitted the jump up has worn on him a bit.
“The main thing is nerves, and I have been nervous,” he said. “It’s a whole different game than high school and a big step up. But I am having fun and I am enjoying it.”
Massanelli was surprised he was playing so much, but something finally clicked in his head that helped settle his nerves.
“I just realized that I am just the same as everyone else,” he said. “It’s just playing baseball and have fun. It’s something to not be nervous about. It’s just a game.
Massanelli is one of three Watson Chapel graduates playing at the NCAA Division I level. Chance Cleveland led the Sun Belt in strikeouts with 98 for Arkansas-Little Rock. Sebastian Stargell is an outfielder for Texas Southern. At the NCAA Division II level, former Watson Chapel catcher Ryan Dardenne was named the Great American Conference freshman of the year while playing for Southern Arkansas.
Massanelli said playing with so many quality athletes in high school helped with the transition.
“I also had an older brother, so I always grew up playing against and with kids older than me,” he said.
Massanelli is not the only Pine Bluff native playing for the Red Wolves, either. Sophomore third baseman Claude Johnson played for Pine Bluff High School.
“It’s fun seeing him every day, knowing we are doing well and representing for Pine Bluff,” Massanelli said.
Massanelli is part of the nucleus that helped Arkansas State to a 34-23 record this season and a Sun Belt Conference runner-up finish. Massanelli learned a lot during his freshman season, and he is only ready for more going forward.
“I feel it’s going to be a lot better in the future,” he said. “I have learned a lot about stuff I didn’t know about and it’s crazy how much you don’t know about a game that is played your whole life.”