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Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2012:12:06 16:32:29

Photo: N/A, License: N/A

Tunkhannock graduate Mike Papi signs his contract with the Cleveland Indians on Thursday, as Brad Grant, director of amateur scouting, left, and Paul Gillispie, director of baseball operations, looks on.

Throughout his playing career, Mike Papi has dished out his fair share of signatures as autographs for fans.

Last week, he signed what is certainly his most valuable ‘John Hancock’ to date.

Papi, the 38th overall pick in last month’s First-Year Player Draft, signed his first professional contract with the Cleveland Indians on Thursday, receiving a $1.25 million signing bonus and a $30,000 scholarship. The slot value for this year’s 38th pick was $1,495,400.

“It was an honor to have the opportunity to sign a minor league contract,” Papi said. “It’s really not about the money for me, but the experience. I love the game and that’s all I want to do; play the game the rest of my life and if the money is there I’ll be happy with that, too.”

Papi, 21, hopped on a flight to Cleveland late Tuesday night (July 1), and spent almost all of Wednesday attending doctors appointments, including a physical, eye appointment, MRIs, x-rays and a meeting with the training staff.

After an orthopedics meeting in the morning on Thursday, Papi had lunch and met with Brad Grant, director of amateur scouting, and Paul Gillispie, director of baseball operations, who were present for the informal contract signing.

“(Mike) does have that advanced feel to hit,” Grant said in a news release. “He is extremely patient at the plate. He doesn’t expand the strike zone. He has a natural ability to hit the ball and he has the ability to move around the field.”

After the signing and a flight delay in Charlotte, it was back home to Tunkhannock for Fourth of July weekend, when Papi was finally able to get some much needed rest, and even a round of golf, after not having much of a break since playing in the College World Series final.

“I saw a lot of family when I was home and was just able to relax and enjoy my time off,” he said.

On Monday, Papi and his parents, Joe and Laurie, made the drive to Ohio to attend the Cleveland Indians game and were given the opportunity to watch batting practice.

The Tribe were hosting the Yankees, a favorite team of the Papis - for now at least.

“I’m happy I get to watch the Indians and Yankees play and hopefully see a good game, but I have to stay pretty neutral,” Papi laughed.

And yesterday, it was off to Niles, Ohio to meet up with his new team, the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, who play in the New York-Penn League. As of Monday, Papi was unsure of where or when he would play for the Scrappers.

“There’s a rotation and everyone will get the opportunity to play and perform,” Papi said. “It’s exciting to play baseball in the summer and to do it for a Major League organization. I just have to go out there and play the game, have fun and stay aggressive.”

The Scrappers’ road schedule will provide local fans several opportunities to see Papi in action, including games in Williamsport, State College, and Wappingers Fall, New York.

“I’m extremely happy that some games will be a lot closer to home,” Papi said. “Even when I played at Virginia the support was unbelievable and a lot of fans have said they can watch now that the games will be closer. It’s always exciting to have people behind me and watch me play. It’s a good feeling and gives you a better energy to make me more comfortable and relaxed.”

Papi batted .307 with 11 homes and 56 RBIs in 69 games for the Cavaliers this year. He had 11 doubles, scored 55 runs and walked 61 times.

He also added to his list of accomplishments, which include All-Atlantic Coast Conference team honors and All-American honors, when he was named to the All-ACC Academic Baseball team for the first time in his career last week.

To be eligible, a student-athlete must have earned a 3.00 grade point average for the previous semester and maintained a 3.00 cumulative average during academic career.