MASON, Ohio — Mason senior catcher Brady Bly has always regarded the Comets' baseball program as a second family.
Bly was the team's bat boy as a 3-year-old. He grew up around baseball when his father, Mason coach Curt Bly, was a longtime assistant and later head coach. Curt and Brady would play catch even if Brady could barely swing a bat yet.
That Comet connection has grown stronger over the years, especially as Brady concludes his second year as the catcher.
"During the spring and summer, if we're not at home we're probably at the baseball field," said Brady Bly, a University of Charleston signee. "My dad being a coach here my whole family has been super invested into this program. To be able to play here with my dad coaching me is just an awesome feeling."
That connectivity is evident this week as the Comets prepare for a trip to Akron for the Division I state Final Four.
Mason (27-4) plays Grove City (25-7) in a Division I state semifinal at 1 p.m. Friday at Canal Park. The state final is scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday.
The father and son enjoy speaking about the obvious family connection, but their primary focus is on the task ahead of the Comets starting Friday as Mason earns its third state tournament appearance and is seeking its first title.
"To be able to head to Akron together I like to think we're both pretty focused on just accomplishing the goal that our team has," Curt Bly said. "But there will be time to certainly reflect on that ... Hopefully when it's all over in a positive way. It's definitely special. Obviously, a dream come true."
The Bly family discusses baseball at home, but they also recognize the importance of keeping the game and family separate conversations many times.
Curt said it's in the back of his mind this week, noting it's an emotional connection so he'd prefer to keep the focus on the state semifinal.
Beyond Mason baseball, Curt and Brady bond over sports. Curt is an avid Cleveland fan whether it's the Guardians, Cavaliers or Browns. The two enjoy watching those games together. But, they understand the coach and catcher relationship on the high school baseball diamond.
"He says this to me all the time: 'No matter how you perform on the field or anything like that, I'm always going to be your dad first and I'm always going to love you no matter what,'" Brady Bly said. "So I think it's good to have those two kinds of relationships separate. And also it's important when I'm here (at the baseball field) to think of him as my coach and not my dad. I'm trying to be like any other player."
The entire senior class has a special meaning to Curt Bly.
"I am very close with a lot of the families," Curt Bly said. "I've coached a lot of the boys since Little League. So it's not just about Brady; it's the senior group in general that it's extra special."
Mason senior pitcher Brenden Garula — the Division I state player of the year — said Brady has been his catcher since seventh grade. The two attended preschool together and had the same classes throughout elementary school.
There is a trust factor that has been built over the years.
"We've been close my whole life," said Garula, a University of Cincinnati signee. "Being that close to my catcher — people wouldn't believe how helpful it is. There is pitches that I want to throw and he doesn't call that pitch. I trust this guy with the game right now so I'm going to throw what he calls. I would say 90 to 95% of the time we're on the same page. And I think that's from our lifelong friendship."
Fellow pitcher Noah Samol, a Georgia Tech signee, said Brady Bly has helped him in numerous ways on the mound. The two have known each other since they were 7.
It's also representative of how close this entire team has been this season.
"This is a team is always fighting for one more day to stay together and to play for more weekend," said Samol. "I think we're all just like brothers on this team and we're going to go up there and have a lot of fun and put on a show in Akron."