Cavalier Corner

June 2014

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to have more of a protective approach than an ag- gressive approach. "As a hitter, you have to read the umpire. I feel I'm good at that. When an umpire calls a pitch a strike, you know you can't take that pitch again. You have to take an emergency hack at it." While Papi acknowledges the importance of learning an umpire's strike zone, ACC pitchers also have gone to school in an attempt to exploit his weaknesses which, in turn, was one reason why his batting average dipped from .381 last year to .289 in 2014. "Feeling good in the box is all about confidence I think for all baseball play- ers," Papi said. "When you don't do as well as you want to do you lack confidence. "The best thing as a hit- ter is to remain confident. At some point in the sea- son, I lacked confidence." But as Papi's stats prior to the NCAA Tourna- ment would indicate, he didn't lack confidence from opening day through the final game of the ACC Tournament. Papi's versatility is another plus for the Cava- liers because he's played both corner outfield positions and this season added first base to his defensive repertoire. While handling 356 total chances, he posted a .989 fielding percentage. "Early on in the season, I felt more com- fortable in the outfield because that's where I've played since I've been here," Papi said. "I worked at first base in the fall, and once I got more groundballs, I got more comfortable. "I consider myself a versatile player and feel I can play either corner." One scouting service, Prospect Insider, projects Papi as an outfielder as well as a solid hitter. "Papi really doesn't look the part until he gets in the cage and shows the smoothest, most pol- ished, left-handed stroke on the team," the report stated. "He has excellent control over the ball and sneaky, fringe-average pull power. But the bat has a solid average ceiling. "He's stuck at first base right now thanks to an embarrassment of riches in UVa's outfield. But he has the arm and legs to play right field in pro ball." Papi's athletic ability is another plus, as evi- denced by the fact he was a standout basketball player at Tunkhannock High. When he graduated, he held Wyoming Valley Conference records in free throw accuracy (93 percent) and three-point baskets (53, in 2011). But his accomplishments on the baseball field in high school (as a senior he hit .531 with six homers, 24 RBI and a mind-boggling .708 on-base percentage) far outweighed whatever he did on the bas- ketball court. "I definitely think I was a better baseball player," Papi said. "I loved basketball, especially the fast-paced feel and the conditioning aspect. But I always was looking to go somewhere to play baseball." Enter Virginia, which offered Papi more than just baseball. "The baseball and the academics were primary in my decision to come to Virginia," he said. "My parents [including mother Laurie] are both educa- tors. They wanted me to get a good degree [Papi has a double major in economics and religious studies]. For me, it was good to have a Plan B. Coming out of here, there's nothing that can take that [degree] away from you. "I take pride in my academics and try to learn as much as I possibly can. Also, I wanted to come to a winning program and be able to help win a championship. Overall, as a team we've put to- gether some pretty good seasons." ◆ "He told me to be a bulldog and not a puppy dog, and just to go out and be tough and give it your all." PAPI ON ADVICE HE RECEIVED FROM HIS BROTHER JEFF i18-19.Mike Papi.indd 3 6/3/14 2:28 PM

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