Meryl Masterson: “Just like long distance, it makes you stronger.”
Walking the streets of Boston in a No. 48 jersey with “Masterson” embroidered across the back, Meryl Masterson swarmed through crowds of Red Sox fans on her way to Fenway Park in 2008. She sported a Pawtucket Red Sox baseball jersey, which featured the last name of Boston’s most recent call-up, and she could not imagine why so many fans were stopping her along the way.
“I didn’t know that we weren’t supposed to wear their jerseys and go all out, decked-out,” Meryl said. “I’m walking down the street and all these people are like, ‘Oh my God, that’s the starting pitcher. Where’d you get that jersey?’ I was like, ‘Oh, it’s his. I found it in his closet.’”
Justin Masterson made his Major League debut just 173 days after marrying Meryl. The couple met in a class at Bethel College, where Justin played baseball and pursued a career in criminal justice for two years. (He later transferred to San Diego State University.)
Meryl said she is caught off-guard when others treat Justin like a celebrity.
“I forget because I met him before he was anything; I didn’t even know he played baseball,” she said. “When we’re out sometimes, people will say, ‘Excuse me, can I get your autograph when you’re finished?’ I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, there are people probably watching us.’
“He acts completely normal and would sign anything because he doesn’t want his autograph to mean anything, which I love. He’ll sign whatever you want; he loves that kind of stuff.”
It did not take long for Meryl to learn of Justin’s love of baseball as he spent much of his time at the ballpark upon being promoted to the big leagues.
In fact, Meryl’s passion for the game has grown dramatically since she married Justin.
“My pitcher IQ [is] a 10, but my hitter IQ [is] a one,” she said. “I am [a baseball fan] now. I really do love when it’s on.”
Justin continued his career with Boston throughout 2008 and into the 2009 season, when he was traded to Cleveland. Meryl moved with Justin to Cleveland, where she stays during the course of the season. In the offseason, the couple travel to Boston and South Bend, Ind., home of Justin’s family and Bethel College.
Meryl, who is a dental assistant by trade, has experienced success in the business world with her self-owned cookie business, “Home Plate Cookies.”
“When we got married, I forgot we move three times a year; no one wants to hire you part-time like that,” she said. “I always bake these cookies for the team, and then someone [told me] to sell them. I went to school online for business for one year, figured it out, and now I have a huge web site.”
Meryl has decided to donate all proceeds to a charity in the Dominican Republic, where the Mastersons volunteer and help care for a village.
“We’re very big believers, and we believe that we’re in the position we’re in only to help these kids,” she said. “It’s so exciting because the better [Justin] does, the more people we can help. It helps me not get as nervous for the game. It’s been really cool to see that the more we give to these kids, the better he does.”
Handling Life as a Player’s Wife
Justin Masterson’s days as a relief pitcher are over (for now), and his wife, Meryl, is arguably the biggest fan of his conversion to starting pitcher. The uncertainty leading up to every appearance proved stressful for Meryl, who was thrilled to learn she had four days off between Justin’s starts.
“I’ve asked veteran [wives], ‘Does it ever get easier?’” Meryl said. “Honestly, for pitchers’ wives, it doesn’t because they’re up once every five days; that’s their chance, and if they do bad, you have all five days to think about it. If they do good, you’re on a high for five days.”
Meryl said she has every Indians game playing on the television when she is home. She attends as many home games as she can during the summer, and she makes occasional road trips to spend time with her husband.
Even if Meryl walks away from the television for a second, the couple’s 2-year-old daughter, Eden, notifies her when Justin appears on TV.
“If they show him in the dugout or doing something else, she’ll be like, ‘There’s Daddy!’ I’ve taken so many pictures of her just staring at the screen,” Meryl said. “When he’s on like 11-day road trips, she gets so excited to see him. She doesn’t realize that he’s not there; [Eden thinks] he’s there. It’s really nice to see him on TV even though he’s gone.”
Eden, who looks just like Justin, often accompanies Meryl to her father’s games at Progressive Field, where the two sit with other players’ family members.
During one of Justin’s starts, Eden interjected, “Mommy, look, there’s Ketchup!”
“She doesn’t have a clue what’s going on out there, except that her daddy pitches,” Meryl said. “She’s been to more games than any [2-year-old]. She does really love the games.”
Meryl and Eden have made numerous friendships with players’ families throughout the past few years. While they both miss Justin for 81 away games each year, they enjoy the limited time they have with him at home.
“Of course, we want him to be home, but it really does make the times he is home precious. We don’t ever have little arguments because we just cherish the time we do have together,” Meryl said. “I really look at it like a blessing; it keeps our marriage fresh.
“Yes, it’s hard, and you feel like a single mom most of the time. Just like long distance, it makes you stronger because you’re built on trust.”
Meryl, who played basketball and softball in high school, said Justin does not talk about baseball unless she brings up the topic. She said she appreciates the way in which he separates his work from his family life.
“When we have family and friends in town — of course that’s all they talk about — my ears are perked because I never know what to say. When they talk about the game, I just love it because he goes on and on,” she said. “I feel like he just tries to leave it at the field and think of family time as family time, which I totally respect and cherish.”
Justin’s ability to come home with a smile on his face — regardless of his team’s performance each day — reminds Meryl of Justin’s college days. She said he used to hold the door open for everyone and hug the lunch ladies at Bethel.
“I am so emotional, and I get into the game. I would scream from the rooftops if I had the best game, and I would be so low if I had a bad game. You would not know what kind of game he had,” Meryl said. “He is the sweetest person, and that’s how I fell in love with him. He is just so even-keel, loving and up for whatever at any time. He’s steady; he is like the rock.”
–TribeVibe contributor Megan Golden