Manny Pupo has never experienced snow. That dynamic will change dramatically, as he is scheduled to spend the next four winters in Orono.
After his first Division I opportunity fell through, the righthanded pitcher from Boynton Beach, Fla., has committed to play for coach Steve Trimper’s University of Maine program starting next fall.
“I’m going to need some winter clothes,” Pupo said. “I’ve never actually seen snow, so I don’t know what to expect.”
The 6-foot-5, 190-pounder will be joined by another late recruit in lefthanded pitcher Paul Pappaceno of Rutherford, N.J. The 6-2, 195-pounder, will attend UMaine as a walk-on, meaning he will not receive athletic scholarship money.
Pupo initially was being recruited by the likes of Florida Atlantic, but his stock slipped because of some academic issues.
“I wanted to go D-1 all along, but my grades wouldn’t let me,” explained Pupo, who eventually raised his SAT scores. “(Maine) beat FIU (Florida International, in the NCAA regionals), so obviously they’re good. I know it’s a good program and there’s pros that come out of there.”
Trimper explained UMaine assistant coach Jason Spaulding discovered Pupo while attending a baseball showcase in Florida in June.
“After we lost (junior Keith) Bilodeau (to the major league draft),” we went out to look for some guys in the late period to hopefully see a senior who fell through the cracks,” Trimper said. “We’re very fortunate. I think he’s going to be a Sean Coughlin-type pitcher.”
Pupo describes himself as a power pitcher and hopes working with Spaulding will help him continue to increase his velocity. He said he also throws a changeup and a “power curve.”
“He’s a high 80s (mph), low 90s guy,” Trimper said. “This kid’s pretty good.”
Last year, Pupo transferred from West Boca Raton Community High School to Trinity Christian Academy in Lake Worth, Fla., where he said he posted a 4-2 mound record. Pupo also played first base and hit eight home runs.
“I broke the home-run record at the school,” he said.
Pupo’s older brother Carlos was on the roster at Purdue University from 2006-08.
Pappaceno played his high school ball at St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City, N.J.
He chose UMaine over a handful of other opportunities after witnessing the Bears’ success last spring, when they won the America East Conference championship and went 1-2 in the NCAA Chapel Hill (N.C.) Regional.
Pappaceno throws a fastball somewhere in the 84-85 mph range and has an overhand curveball to keep hitters off-balance.
Trimper is prohibited by NCAA rules from commenting on a student-athlete who is a walk-on prior to the first day of classes.
The student-athletes’ participation at UMaine is predicated on their acceptance by the school and compliance with NCAA initial-eligibility guidelines.
Mahaney golf tourney a success
Approximately 100 supporters of the UMaine baseball program turned out last week to participate in the annual Larry K. Mahaney Golf Classic at Penobscot Valley Country Club in Orono.
Trimper said the event is a key component of UMaine’s annual fundraising effort.
“It was a great day. It’s a huge fundraiser for us,” said Trimper, who explained the tournament brought in nearly $20,000 for Black Bear baseball. “We got so much support from the community and our alumni. Without that help, it’s hard to drive the program.”
Trimper said the money raised is enough to cover about half of the annual spring trip to Florida and points south.
UMaine produces NECBL stars
Two UMaine players were selected to participate in the recent New England Collegiate Baseball League All-Star Game held at Lynn, Mass.
Senior pitcher A.J. Bazdanes of the Sanford Mainers and junior shortstop Michael Fransoso of the Old Orchard Beach Raging Tide represented the Bears in the contest.
Bazdanes was one of nine pitchers to work one inning and he was credited with the victory after his scoreless frame, which included a strikeout.
Bazdanes is 2-1 with a 2.46 earned run average for coach Aaron Izaryk’s Sanford team.
Fransoso, who went into the game as a substitute, wound up going 0-for-2. He is batting .278 with one home run, 11 runs batted in and eight stolen bases.