By Christian Ulrich, Mar. 8, 2022
On Feb. 14, Johnny Pappas, a catcher for CPP’s baseball team, took home the California Collegiate Athletic Association Player of the Week award for the week of Feb. 7 through Feb. 14, the first Bronco to do so since 2018.
Over a four-game series against the Montana State Billings, the Cal Poly Pomona catcher hit an average of .467 with six doubles, six runs, four runs batted in and five walks. CPP would go on to split the series at two games apiece.
Pappas commented on his big week.
“Montana came in, and we didn’t have a lot of information to go off of as it was our first time playing them,” said Pappas. “I had a good day against their first starter who pitched really well against us. They tried pitching at me in different ways, and I was able to adjust to what they were doing. Big credit to my coaching staff for preparing me the week leading up.”
Coming into the 2020 season as a freshman, Pappas struggled at the plate. “I remember thinking that this isn’t high school anymore,” he said. “The physicality and the speed of the game was different.”
Twenty-one games into the 2020 season, the CCAA canceled all remaining games due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Pappas, still yearning to play, decided to play at a summer league in Texas.
“Having an opportunity to play was great,” said Pappas. While at the summer league, he would spend valuable time with a coaching staff that helped him develop his confidence behind the plate.
When Pappas learned of the cancellation of the CCAA 2021 season, he decided to call his coach in Texas looking for an opportunity to play.
“I called and told him, ‘I don’t want to sit out two years in a row; is there any way I can come play for you guys?’” said Pappas. Luckily, the team had a spot to fill.
Pappas made the trek to Clarendon College in Texas where he would go on to play 46 games for the Bulldogs and earned a First Team All-Western Junior College Athletic Conference selection. Here, Pappas developed a sense of confidence that would carry over to the 2022 season with the Broncos.
Pappas mentioned that CPP’s encouragement to play baseball while pursuing a degree in biology played a huge part in his commitment to the school. To Pappas, playing professional baseball has always been the dream, but he also understands backup plans are necessary.
“Of course, that’s hard to reach and realistically only a small fraction of people get to do that,” said Pappas. “If baseball doesn’t work out, then I’d love to teach biology at a university.”
Although Pappas is on campus from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and attending four-hour practices with classes before and after, he explained that he wouldn’t want it any other way.
In high school, Pappas explained the coaching staff at Ruben S. Ayala High School in Chino Hills, California challenged him every day with messages like, “If you want it, then you have to work for it.” Implementing this mantra into everyday life has been essential for his success.
Baseball has been a part of Pappas’ life since the beginning. Growing up in Chino Hills, his base-ball journey began at the age of 5 with support from his family every step of the way.
“My family is huge baseball fans,” Pappas said enthusiastically. “My grandma is my Cal Poly Pomona super fan; she comes to every game.”
Outside of baseball, Pappas loves to spend time with his best friend, his dad.
“My go-to thing is to golf with my dad,” said Pappas. “Sometimes he will beg me to go play. It’s nice to go out and have some me-and-him time for a few hours and to just get away from everything.”
Becoming a leader for his team has also been a learning process and a goal to achieve.
“I’m still learning to be the best leader I can be every day,” said Pappas. “I ask my coaches for advice all the time, and I’m still learning to lead these guys in the right direction.”
Graphics by Carlos Leano.
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