Being the new kid in school is never easy for anyone. In most cases, however, the "new kid" is forced to join a new school because of various extenuating circumstances, such as parents relocating to a new job.
Unsatisfied with his role on the Darien High School baseball team, Papic opted to transfer to GFA of Westport, seeking increased playing time and greater opportunities on the diamond. Through 13 games with GFA, the choice has paid off in dramatic fashion.
From Opening Day, Papic has been raking to the tune of a .471 batting average (16-for-34), including a home run, four triples and four doubles with 17 RBIs. By his own admission, Papic has never felt better in the batter's box.
"I'm really locked in and I'm seeing the ball better than I ever have before," Papic said. "We've practiced a lot and I've been working hard in the offseason. Hitting is just a matter of working hard and focusing."
Papic has been equally effective on the mound, hurling 14 and two thirds innings while yielding only four earned runs (3.67 ERA) and striking out 15. His pitching repertoire includes a four-seam fastball, a two-seam fastball, a curveball and a changeup, and he's currently working on developing a slider.
Papic, who doubles as a shooting guard on the basketball team, may be having a tremendous season for the 7-6 Dragons, however, the repeat junior indicated that his decision to transfer from Darien to GFA certainly did not come easy.
"It was definitely a tough decision, considering I was going to be a senior at Darien and wanted to graduate," Papic said. "But I found out that GFA wanted me for baseball and basketball and that I would have to repeat junior year, which was obviously a tough decision. It was another year of academics and sports combined, but it was sad leaving Darien behind."
While the choice to transfer may have been a difficult one, both player and third year GFA baseball head coach Todd Mathewson are thrilled with the results. Mathewson said that Papic has been one of the biggest reasons for GFA's success in 2011.
"He's had a huge impact. If he didn't come on board, I don't know where we'd be as a team," Mathewson said. "He's solidified our infield."
For Mathewson, Papic has been a welcome addition. Whenever Papic isn't on the hill, he's penciled in as the team's starting shortstop and cleanup hitter, both considerable feats as the newest member of the GFA baseball squad.
"He has real good hands and he's been our four-hitter all year long," Mathewson said. "Because he's done so well at shortstop, we've been using him in a closer role in a sense that if our starter gets in trouble, we can bring him into any type of a close game."
Papic still has half of his junior season and all of his senior year to look forward to as a GFA high school student, but he knows that he will be faced with one big question when applying to colleges: Pitcher or shortstop?
"It's a good question. Originally, I thought my best chance was to be a pitcher and that that was the way to go," Papic said. "But I've broke out a bit at shortstop and hitting, so I'm not committing just yet."
In many ways, it's a good problem to have. Mathewson believes that it may be possible for Papic to both pitch and play shortstop at a D-III school, although a D-I school would be highly likely to recruit him for one position or the other.
"If he goes D-III he may be able to play two-way. At the D-I level, I think he'd be a pitcher. Colleges need deeper pitching so he could make more of an immediate impact that way," Mathewson said. "It's something we'll have a conversation about at the end of the year."
In the meantime, Papic is focused on helping GFA continue to make strides and find a way into the postseason.
"We definitely want to make the playoffs. This year started out rough with us losing a couple of close games and falling to 1-4," Papic said. "But we've jumped back on and gotten on a bit of a winning streak."