Jays picks Latz, Papierski follow path to LSU
* LHP Jake Latz and his battery mate, C Michael Papierski are seemingly joined at the hip when it comes to baseball. Longtime friends and seniors at Lemont HS, both were drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays this month, and both have committed to LSU. ….
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By Melissa Couto
Jake Latz and Michael Papierski have gotten used to playing alongside each other over the last decade.
Not even a high school graduation will separate them now.
Both seniors at Lemont HS in Lemont, Ill. — a town 45 kilometres south-west of Chicago — Latz and Papierski were selected by the same organization, the Toronto Blue Jays, on Day 3 of the First-Year Player draft last weekend.
Latz, a left-handed pitcher who committed to Louisiana State University, was taken in the 11th round, while his battery mate Papierski, also an LSU commit, was picked moments later in the 16th round.
“It’s crazy how both of us are committed to LSU and that the same organization out of 30 drafted us,” Papierski said last week. “We’ve been friends since we were little and now we can continue our careers together.”
Papierski and Latz, teammates since age 8, were playing in Lemont’s sectional championship game when they were selected by the Jays last weekend.
Latz, ranked the 208th best prospect by Baseball America prior to the draft, was on the mound shutting out Manteno and helping Lemont secure its first sectional title, when his name was called 324th overall.
Both had to wait until after the game was over to hear they’d been drafted. Latz got the news from his father, while Papierski was told by his friends.
It was a special moment for both players, who became the first high schoolers ever drafted out of the Lemont Indians program.
“Mike and I have become very close friends over the past few years,” Latz said. “At first it was amazing to be going to the same college. But for the both of us, we want to make a living in the major leagues so (getting drafted by the Blue Jays) was a surreal moment that we will carry with us for the rest of our lives.”
Days after the draft, Papierski and Latz were back on the field, routing De La Salle, 11-1, in the super-sectional title game to advance to the State final.
The following weekend, Papierski hit a two-run homer and drove in four runs altogether as Lemont downed Metamora, 8-3, in the State semifinal.
And the next day, Latz pitched a complete game (seven innings), striking out 11 and giving up one unearned run as Lemont earned its first State Championship with a 2-1 walkoff victory over Springfield’s Sacred Heart Griffin.
With all the excitement surrounding the draft, neither Latz nor Papierski had any trouble keeping their sights set on their championship run.
“It’s been crazy with everything going on, but I just kept focusing on winning State,” said Papierski. “That was our goal since our first day of practice.”
Added Latz: “I can’t say it altered my game at all, as I still tried to focus and get my work in to prepare myself for the next start. The whole process has been exciting … and I can’t wait to see what my future holds.”
For both seniors, the future most likely holds three years playing NCAA Division I ball with the LSU Tigers and another crack at the draft in 2017.
Though MLB’s signing deadline is still a month away (July 18), the two have already landed in Louisiana, and they had their first summer classes on Monday.
Latz said the decision to choose school over pro ball was a tough one, but seeing his name fall to the 11th round nudged him toward college.
“I’ll just (use) this to motivate me and prove to all the teams who didn’t see me as high as I saw myself that they were wrong,” the lefty said. “I’ll work hard to improve my number over the next three years at LSU.”
Papierski hopes to do the same.
Ranked 411th heading into the draft, the catcher also took a tumble in the selection order — though not nearly as far as Latz — when he was picked 474th overall by Toronto.
Papierski said the prospect of working with Sal Fasano, the Blue Jays’ “very good catching co-ordinator,” was intriguing, but Baton Rouge seemed like a better fit right now.
“I’ll have a great experience and get to spend another three years with Jake,” Papierski said last week.
Lemont head coach Brian Storako says LSU will be gaining special talent with the addition of two solid athletes.
Storako calls Papierski “an all-around player” who runs well and is strong both offensively — hitting for power from both sides of the plate — and defensively. Through 39 games for the Indians this season, Papierski hit .471 with a .543 OBP and 1.353 OPS.
Latz, meanwhile, has an above-average curveball and changeup, and a fastball that tops out at 92 miles per hour. He was 10-0 on the year with 114 strikeouts and a miniscule 0.225 ERA through 62 1/3 innings.
Storako says Latz and Papierski were Lemont’s leaders, putting the baseball program “on the map” with its historic season.
“When I found out they were drafted, I couldn’t have been more proud and happy for both of them,” he said.”They helped solidify the legacy that will be left behind when they move on to the next step.”
— Follow Melissa Couto on Twitter @throwinsmoke