John Masterson is astonished by one aspect of his career over pretty much everything else.
“It’s amazing to think it’s been 40 years,” he said. “Sure doesn’t seem that long.”
Masterson, whose first years at Allen Community College were as its baseball coach and a counselor, didn’t hold those positions for long, but they were significant.
He was instrumental in helping turn the fledgling baseball club into a junior college power that soon became the envy of colleges throughout the Midwest, before handing the reins to current head coach, Val McLean.
As one of only three head baseball coaches in the college’s history, Masterson will be inducted into the Red Devil Diamond Club’s 2014 Hall of Fall on Saturday.
BASEBALL WAS instrumental in bringing the Masterson family to Iola — twice.
His father, Frank, came to town “long before I was ever around” to play for a local industrial league team.
Young John was born in 1944, and baseball was an essential part of his childhood.
“My dad would play catch with me, take me to games, things like that,” he recalled. “I loved baseball from the start.”
One problem. Iola High had no organized team at the time, so playing ball was relegated to a recreational squad, and later, on Iola’s American Legion team.
After a year at Allen — then known as Iola Junior College — Masterson attended Emporia State to study physical education and counseling.
A sports fanatic, Masterson soon realized any hopes of remaining immersed in those programs would be as a coach, not a player.
“I was just good enough to pick up splinters on the bench,” he joked. “They used players like me as cannon fodder.”
It was at Emporia State that Masterson met Georgia McRae. They were married just before graduation and pending his active duty with the U.S. Navy.
While in the Navy, Masterson served two tours in Vietnam aboard the USS Mount Katmai.
Upon return to civilian life, Masterson re-enrolled at ESU in a master’s program for guidance counseling.
Fate intervened when a teacher from his hometown, Joe Haynes, told Masterson about a counseling position at Allen.
“I told him I wasn’t interested,” Masterson recalled. “I wanted a position where I could coach football or baseball.”
He didn’t know it at the time, but Haynes had a coaching spot open. He was in the middle of helping create the Red Devil baseball program from scratch and needed a third base coach.
“He didn’t want to be head coach much longer, either,” Masterson said.
He agreed, joining Haynes in the fall of 1973.
Success was almost immediate. The Red Devils ended the 1974 season with a winning record, the first in school history.
Over the next three years, and with Masterson at the helm, Allen amassed a 64-37 record.
FATE intervened with a detour for Masterson.
In 1977 he was hired as a bank officer at Allen County Bank and Trust, handing over the baseball team’s reins to Val McLean, where the program hit even more unprecedented heights. That year the club won ACC’s first conference title with a 33-6 record. Five years later, the team was in the Junior College World Series.
Masterson’s tenure with the bank ended when the country became mired in a recession in the mid 1980s.
He returned to Allen as dean of students and athletics director. Three years later he became vice president for administrative affairs, and in 1992, took over as college president.