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Cleveland Indians starter has Powell ties

When Cleveland Indians’ pitcher Justin Masterson tosses the first pitch of the team’s season today, there will be a proud Powell uncle watching from the stands.

“To have a nephew — or, for my brother, a son — pitching opening day for a Major League Baseball team, that is a thrill for the whole family and beyond,” Powell resident Mike Masterson said Tuesday.

The retired Northwest College music professor was flying out early Wednesday morning to catch today’s (Thursday’s) opener against the Toronto Blue Jays in Cleveland.

During Justin Masterson’s successful 2011 campaign, Mike Masterson became of the opinion that his nephew had probably developed into the best pitcher on the Cleveland’s staff.

Indians manager Manny Acta came to a similar conclusion this spring, naming Justin the Indians’ top starter. Acta told the media last month that the honor for the right-handed sinkerballer was “well-deserved.”

Justin — who went to high school in Beaverton, Ohio — posted a stellar 3.21 ERA last year, though a lack of run support contributed to just a 12-10 record.

“Last year, when teams rolled into town, they wanted to know if they were going to see him (Justin) or not,” Acta said, according to the Beacon Journal. “That’s what a No. 1 starter is.”

A number of Masterson family members rolled into town this week specifically to see Justin — though some were unable to get tickets for the sold-out contest.

“I went early,” explained Mike. “I knew I wanted to make sure I got a ticket.”

Players are allocated a certain number of tickets for family, but unsurprisingly, all of Justin’s have been used up.

Mike recalled that when he and his three brothers played youth baseball years ago, his brother Mark — Justin’s father — used to get a hard time from his kin for being a slow, sidearm pitcher.

“Well guess what? Justin throws sidearm and throws 98 (MPH),” Mike laughed.

He’s watched Justin pitch before, but this will be the 27-year-old’s first opening day start.

“It doesn’t happen very often to have a family member pitching in the major leagues anyway, but opening day is cool, too,” Mike said.

So is he nervous for his nephew?

“You know, I would say once I get to the game, I probably will be,” Mike said.

The game begins at 1:05 p.m. at Cleveland’s Progressive Field, which can host some 45,000 fans.

“If the place is sold out... man oh man, it’s going to be fun,” Mike said.

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