Papi early on showed star power
An athlete drafted in the first round of Major League Baseball doesn’t get there just by luck.
Mike Papi’s star quality became evident a decade ago in his first year on Sherwood Chevrolet’s Little League Majors team back in 2004, that captured the regular season title with a 13-1-1 record. He went on to play on Tunkhannock’s 11-12 All-Star squad that finished second in District 15 tournament play.
That he could play with the best became evident early on as Papi that summer also had a role on the 12 and under travel team known as the Endless Mountains Bullets.
He showed the people in Cooperstown, New York, star potential as he connected for a game-winning home run against Connecticut at Field of Dreams Park. In the tourney, he batted .500 (10 for 20 hits), and although mostly playing second base, did pitch a 14-3 win over Michigan.
The following year Papi led the Tunkhannock Majors All-Star squad to its first Little League District 15 title in 20 years.
The junior high squads he played on were also legendary under Coach Gary Custer. As an eighth grader, Papi played for a team that went 14-2, and while a ninth grader, his team had an incredible 16-0 run before being stopped by Solomon Plains in the PIAA District 2 playoff.
Papi played for his dad, Joe Papi, on Junior American Legion squads in 2007 and 2008, and again for his dad on the Senior American Legion Team in 2009, but forewent the Senior Legion route going into his junior year to take advantage of some developmental skills programs, which helped him polish his game.
That he had team leadership skills was also evident in his varsity career at Tunkhannock Area High School, once again under Coach Custer.
In 2010, the Tigers won their first Wyoming Valley Conference regular season title in 18 years, and their first PIAA District 2 title in 11 years. Of course, the Tigers repeated in 2011, going all the way to the state championship game, before losing a nail biter.
The previous fall, he also was signed by the University of Virginia Cavaliers, an NCAA Division I power, which competes this week in the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.
Not bad for a little boy who arrived during his first year on the planet in Tunkhannock in the summer of 1993, as his dad, then an assistant principal at Delaware Valley, became head principal at Tunkhannock Area Middle School.