By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
Giuseppe Papaccio spent most of Saturday morning following along with the Major League Baseball free agent amateur draft on the Internet. The Nutley native and recent Seton Hall graduate heard the names of some of his Seton Hall teammates get called and wondered when and if he would hear his own name.
“I talked to a bunch of teams for two months prior to the draft,” Papaccio said. “But I really didn’t know where I would go.”
Papaccio even traveled to Rochester, N.Y., to work out for the Minnesota Twins scouts with Pirate teammates Brian Gilbert and Brian Granite and did a workout with the Pittsburgh Pirates in Lyndhurst, also with Granite.
About 10 days prior to the draft, Chicago Cubs scout John Ceprini came to Nutley and spoke with Papaccio.
“They were the last team to contact me,” Papaccio said.
As it turned out, it was the Cubs that wanted Papaccio more than anyone else.
The Cubs took Papaccio as the second pick in the 18th round.
“I heard my name, then threw my laptop off my bed,” Papaccio said. “I didn’t see my name, but when I did, it was unbelievable. Just to have the opportunity to get picked is incredible.”
Papaccio was the 528th player selected overall. His teammates and friends Gilbert (No. 200) and Granite (No. 410) were selected right before him, both by the Minnesota Twins, as was Jon Prosinski (No. 301) by the Philadelphia Phillies. “It’s the most to be picked from Seton Hall since 1997 and I’m really proud of that,” Papaccio said. Papaccio said that once he heard his name, he went downstairs, where his mother was waiting.
“She gave me the look and I gave her the thumbs up,” Papaccio said. “She then started crying. Dad came home and he was crying. I couldn’t say anything.”
Incredibly, Saturday was Papaccio’s 22nd birthday.
“It was hands down the best day of my life,” said Papaccio, who earned Third Team All- America status earlier in the week. “I was thrilled that I went so high. Considering the round, they must really trust me. It shows the type of faith they have in me. It was incredible that I went that high.”
Papaccio wasted little time to sign his first professional contract. Ceprini came to Nutley with a contract in hand on Sunday and Papaccio signed it right away.
“It’s something you think about as a little kid and you wonder if you’re ever going to get the chance,” Papaccio said. “Then, you become a player and it becomes something you look to achieve. It’s incredible.”
Papaccio doesn’t have a lot of time to celebrate his new career. He was scheduled to leave Tuesday morning to fly to the Cubs’ spring training home in Mesa, Arizona.
“They’re getting all the draft picks together to work out for a week and then they’ll break us up and send us all over,” Papaccio said. “I’m not sure where I’ll be going. But I’m real excited to get going.”
Papaccio is the second Nutley resident to be selected in the MLB Draft in the last two years. Last year, Anthony Gomez, who played his high school baseball at Don Bosco Prep and college baseball at Vanderbilt, was selected by the Miami Marlins in the sixth round. Gomez is currently playing in the Marlins organization at Greensboro of the South Atlantic League, where he’s batting .276 with three homers and 24 RBI.
“I know him really well,” Papaccio said. “We played Little League and on travel teams together. He texted me right after I got drafted to congratulate me.”
In 2010, Rob Gariano was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 36th round. Before Gariano, Carlos Cline was the last Nutley native to be selected. He was taken by the Chicago White Sox in the 31st round back in 1998.
As one can see, it’s not every day that someone from Nutley gets a chance to play pro baseball.
“It’s awesome,” Papaccio said. “I have so many people in Nutley to thank, but I’d really like to thank Phil Agosta. He was my Little League coach and he always told me that he took me No. 1 overall in the Little League draft. He knew I was going places. He also coached me in high school and always wished me good luck. I have to thank him for a lot of my success. He taught me how to play the game, but also to have fun. He’s such a great coach and a great guy. He helped me learn the game and I’m still learning from him.”
Papaccio now heads to the next chapter of his life with an entire community rooting for him every step of the way. He worked hard to get to this level and deserves every ounce of success he may have now as a professional ballplayer, living the dream.