Few hitters in Massachusetts can lay claim to the type of season 17-year-old Lorenzo Papa experienced this past spring for Arlington Catholic. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound Stoneham resident crushed the ball in 2010, hitting .543 with 48 RBIs. He had an on-base percentage upward of .600 and a slugging percentage of 1.306 for an OPS approaching the rare 2.000 mark. Only Lincoln-Sudbury's Carl Anderson had more home runs (10) than Papa (nine).
Having verbally committed to the University of Rhode Island for the fall of 2011, Papa is staying in the weight room and staying local, splitting his time this summer between the Wakefield Post 63 American Legion squad and the Wakefield Merchants of the Intercity League (who were in third place at week's end). His senior year just a month away, Papa sat down with ESPNBoston earlier this week following a workout at the Woburn-based Athletic Evolution to talk about his hitting, his struggles at the plate against a longtime friend, and his mom's home cooking.
Q: What kind of goals did you set for yourself headed into the spring?
A: "My main goal that I set for myself every year is to be the leading hitter, not just for my team but for the whole league. My coach always tells me your average is the most important thing with your hitting because it shows you how good you can hit the ball; and he says hitting [at] the top of the league should be your goal every year."
Q: You had four home runs in four games during one stretch of the season. What were you thinking after you hit that fourth one?
A: (Smiles) "Honestly, I remember this like it was yesterday. When I hit my fourth home run, when I was rounding third base, I say to our third base coach, 'This is getting boring already' (laughs). I remember it like it was yesterday, it was at Frasier Field in Lynn [against St. Mary's]."
Q: How much momentum did the high school season give you going into the summer?
A: "Oh, it gave me a ton of momentum. It gave me so much confidence to play, especially in the Intercity League. It's all college kids and older, kids who are out of college...and I'm still only 17, so I've never really faced this type of competition yet. So after this season, I really felt like I could play with anybody."
Q: What have you been looking to improve upon this summer?
A: "Every day I'm looking to improve everything. I like to work alot on my speed especially. Speed, my footwork at first and third base, my fielding. My hitting, I work on every day, even if it's my best aspect of my game. But no matter what, I like to work on everything."
Q: Take us through your pregame routine.
A: "I like to get to the field early, before we even have batting practice or infield. I like to jog a couple laps around the field, and then I always have the same stretch that I go through every time for my hips. I have the worst hips ever; they're awful, because I grew so fast, that my hips are so tight. But I usually jog, I stretch, then play catch with a teammate, then we do infield, outfield, then some batting practice, get that swing down for the game."
Q: What are you looking for when you're in the batter's box?
A: "When I'm in the batter's box, I'm always looking for right field, to keep my shoulder in so I don't pull out and maybe hit a little dribbler to third base. But I'm constantly thinking center and right field, always thinking fastball to keep my hands back, and if there's an offspeed coming I like to adjust to it and see if I can drop that ball into right-centerfield. If not, if it's a hanging curve, then a try and drive it over the left field fence."
Q: Who is the toughest pitcher you've had to face so far in your career?
A: "I have to think about this one, this is a hard one (pauses)...Will Marcal, from Lexington, one of my good friends, really good friends. I've played against him since Little League, 10 years old, and from ages 10 to 12 I dominated him. But ever since then, I think I'm 0 for 30 against him. I cannot hit his stuff. He's a lefty, and he has just the nastiest tailing fastball that I just cannot hit."
Q: What's kept you local this season, as opposed to other high-profile players heading south and west for various tournaments or showcases?
A: "For the last three years, I'd played on a traveling team, the New England Ruffnecks, that went everywhere around the U.S. I'd probably still be with them if I didn't already commit to URI. Since I'm already committed, my father and I talked about it and believe that we should focus more on working out, doing things to get us better besides just traveling and getting seen. I believe the Intercity is better competition anyways, because it's what I'm going to be facing the next four years in college."
Q: You don't play any other sports at Arlington Catholic. What will you be doing until then?
A: "Athletic Evolution, four to five days a week. If it wasn't for them this year, I wouldn't have had the year I did for AC. I give tremendous credit to my personal trainer Erik (Kaloyanides)."
Q: What's the best restaurant on the North Shore?
A: "Honestly, to tell you the truth...my mother, Sunday dinner, is the best food you'll eat in your entire life. I tell her every day, her food blows away any restaurant that I ever go to. It's ridiculous. Every Sunday, my mother cooks food for an army, because my whole family comes over -- my cousins, my aunts, uncles. It's been going on for years now. It's the best food I've ever eaten. All my friends, whenever they come over, they eat pounds of it, because they just can't believe how good it is. A good 20, 30 people come. We have an outside deck, too, everyone goes out there, couches on the patio. It's a huge gathering....You've got to do her chicken parm, or her pasta -- but I call it macaroni, because that's what the Italians call it."