The decision has clearly paid off and then some.
Paul Mather, a former high school and legion baseball coach, knew early on that his son, Joe, had the ability to be something special on the baseball diamond.
And while it is true scouts will find you regardless of where you are the same isn’t true for the sun.
So before Joe’s freshman year of high school, the Mathers moved from northern Idaho to Ahwatukee Foothills and enrolled into Mountain Pointe.
“I always wanted to retire in warm weather anyway, but I knew if Joe was really going to make it, we had to find a place where we could work year-round,” Paul Mather said. “I could see Joe could play and knew we had to head south.”
About 15 years later, Mather is being honored as one of six Mountain Pointe Hall of Fame inductees in a ceremony on Aug. 31 at the school.
“He is a great representative of what Mountain Pointe baseball is all about,” former Pride coach Roger LeBlanc said. “We’ve had a lot of great players come through and Joe respected the game and played it the way it is supposed to be played.”
Mather is the first and only Pride player to make it to the major leagues and is currently in the midst of his first full-season in the majors during his initial season with the Chicago Cubs organization.
“It would have been much harder getting to where I am from a small town in Idaho rather than Phoenix,” Mather said by phone. “Getting a chance to play and work year-round made a huge difference in my development.”
The 2001 graduate went straight to the professional ranks after being selected No. 104 overall by the St. Louis Cardinals. He made his major league debut with the Cardinals in 2008 while spending some time with the Braves last season before joining the Cubs this past offseason.
Mather has never forgotten where he got his start, and not just because he still lives in Ahwatukee, as he bought a suite at Chase Field for the Braves-Diamondbacks game last season after the Pride won the Division I state title.
“I have a really good connection with Mountain Pointe, they always let me come up and use the field,” Mather told MLB.com when the Cubs played at Chase Field this season. “I’ve always done as much for the school as they’ve done for me. It’s been an awesome relationship.”
There was a time when Mather could be seen at the field daily — if not in their own backyard — with this father, who will attend the award ceremony on Joe’s behalf.
“He was dedicated to baseball,” said LeBlanc, who started the Pride program in 1991. “He and his dad really worked in the offseason. His focus was on baseball and he was always training.”
When Mather thinks back to those days — long before his name is honored on the scoreboard as a high-school All-American — he remembers all of those hours on the Mountain Pointe field.
“I have no idea how many hours I spent there on the field with the team and my dad,” he said. “Even during the summer, putting in the time, trying to get better any way possible.”
It paid off when Mather was called up to the varsity as a sophomore and left as the school’s all-time leader in home runs and RBIs, both of which have since been broken.
He played right field as a sophomore, third base as a junior, and shortstop as a senior. As a senior he hit .478 with 21 runs, 17 home runs and 43 RBIs to be named not only All-Arizona but also second-team All-USA by the USAToday.
His father said word started to spread to the scouts after an early season game against Westwood when he had a three-home run game in which Mather went deep to all three fields (left, center and right).
“Tommy Thomas from the Dodgers talked to us after the game and then we started to see more and more,” the elder Mather said. “Then at the end of the year in a big game against Desert Vista he hit a ball way out against Joel Bocchi. There were 30 or so scouts, there was the pressure of the Mountain Pointe-Desert Vista rivalry and he still performed.”
Mather, who also played two years of varsity basketball at Mountain Pointe before focusing on baseball, could have attended Central Arizona or the University of San Francisco out of high school, but decided to take the professional route instead.
“He is such a good athlete that I think he would have succeeded any route he took,” Paul Mather said. “He wanted to get started right away (professionally) and it has been a good decision.”
Much like the move from Idaho to Arizona.
“I am proud and humbled to be honored,” Mather said. “It is an awesome school. There have been so many great people, academically and athletically, to come out of Mountain Pointe and I’m proud to say I went there.”
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.