Herald All-Area | Jerad Paparella named Baseball Player of the Year

jlembo@bradenton.comJune 15, 2014 

BRADENTON

Bayshore had a need. Jerad Paparella had a skill.

So during his junior year, Paparella left his customary spot at third base, slipped on the catcher's gear and started working behind the plate.

No matter that he hadn't played the position since Little League. Throwing runners out, blocking balls in the dirt and working pitchers through innings came right back to him.

"It was always in the back of my mind that I would move back to catcher. Obviously I did it when I was younger," Paparella said. "When (coach Ron Hirst) brought it up, I was all for it. And it kind of just took off from there.

"It worked out well."

That's an understatement.

Paparella just wrapped a senior season during which his arm, bat and leadership helped the Bruins clinch their third district championship and first since 2008.

Consequently, he is the Herald All-Area Baseball Player of the Year.

"Being involved every play, having a little bit of control over every pitch," Paparella said, "I guess that's the most appealing part."

Few players were as appealing to their team as Paparella, who hit .440 (the second straight season he hit at least .400) while driving in 34 runs and totaling a .542 on-base percentage. He also did a number on the opponent's running game, throwing out 20 of 29 attempted base stealers.

Given those results, it's no wonder Paparella admires San Francisco's Buster Posey and St. Louis' Yadier Molina, catchers who are known for their defense as much as their offense.

"You've got to help the team on both sides of the ball as much as you can," Paparella said. "And you're involved in every pitch, so you can't take any pitches off behind the plate, which I like. I really take pride in my defense."

While Paparella credited Bayshore's pitchers for keeping runners' leads in check, he acknowledged that he works on honing his arm.

"I make a lot of throws," he said. "Keep throwing that distance ... and pop times, working on popping up and throwing. It's just catch and release. The pitcher does play a very big role in it, though."

Paparella also called pitches from behind the plate, a rarity at the prep level, where the signs typically come from the dugout.

"I would argue that there is not another player in the state," Hirst said, "who means more to his team."

Helping his team succeed is what meant the most to Paparella, who was in elementary school the last time Bayshore won a district title before the Bruins' clinched this year's Class 5A-District 10 trophy by beating top-seeded Gulfport Boca Ciega in the championship game.

"Definitely when we hit the playoffs, we knew it was time to start putting everything together," Paparella said, "and playing our game. And we did."

After graduating with a 3.9 grade-point average, Paparella plans on taking his game to Florida State College in Jacksonville. Away from the game, Paparella enjoys lifting weights. But he really focuses on his schoolwork, winning Bayshore's Male Student of the Year award and earning honorable mention in English for the Golden Herald Awards.

The best part, however, was ending his final season at Bayshore as a district champion.

"That's what we looked for," Paparella said. "Since day one, we've been trying to win a district championship. We finally got that."

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