By Steve Ruman
Just how busy of a summer has it been for Mike Papi?
So busy, that when he finally achieved a lifelong dream of becoming a top Major League draft pick, he put it completely out of his mind for the better part of three weeks.
Papi was the 38th player selected overall in the June draft. The Cleveland Indians grabbed the University of Virginia outfielder on June 5 between the first and second rounds with a competitive balance pick.
It wasn’t until last week that Papi came to terms with the Indians. He agreed to a signing bonus of $1.25 million, as well as a $30,000 scholarship to finish his education.
Papi wasn’t playing hard to get. Rather, he was busy living out another childhood dream. Papi and his Cavaliers teammates advanced to the World Series finals where they fell to Vanderbilt on June 25.
“It was surreal,” Papi said of his experience in Omaha, Neb. “I always knew it would be a thrill to play there. But to actually experience it, I really can’t put it into words.”
Three days after playing in his final collegiate game, Papi found himself in Cleveland where he came to terms with the Indians. It has since been a whirlwind of activity for a 21-year-old who just completed his junior year at Virginia.
After signing with the Tribe, Papi returned to his home in Tunkhannock, Pa., to spend a few days with his family. On Monday he was back in Cleveland where he took batting practice with the Indians. On Tuesday, he joined the Mahoning Valley Scrappers. Papi was in uniform for the Scrappers-Williamsport game, but did not play.
“It’s been an absolutely crazy couple of weeks,” Papi said. “It’s been a lifelong dream to play pro ball, but it’s also always been a goal to play in the college World Series. So once I got drafted I had to put that all out of my mind and focus on college ball.
“Fortunately, our coaches at Virginia did an incredible job of keeping us in check. There was never a concern that we would lose our concentration. Plus, the Indians were tremendous. They never put any pressure on me to sign. They just stepped back and allowed my college career to wrap up.”
Papi, one of six Virginia juniors drafted, won the 2014 Atlantic Coast Conference home run title with 11 blasts. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound left-handed hitter batted .307 and knocked in 56 runs in 69 games. He also led the nation in walks (61).
“I try to pride myself in being an all-around player,” Papi said. “I work hard at my overall game, because to be a top player at this level you have to do it all. You can’t get by unless you are a complete player.”
Papi, who acknowledged he grew up a New York Yankees fan and “knew next to nothing about the Mahoning Valley” said he is anxious to now call northeastern Ohio his home. His hometown in located in northeast Pennsylvania, in the heart of New York-Penn League territory.
“It’s a perfect fit because my family will be able to make it to a number of towns when we’re on the road,” Papi said. “As for (the Scrappers), this is a beautiful park and I’m told we have a great fan base. I’m looking forward to a fun and productive summer.”
Papi hopes that it’s the first of many summers in northeastern Ohio.