Maine East’s Papaioannou bring patience behind the plate to Park Ridge
Maine East catcher Phil Papaioannou tries to block Hinsdale South base runner D.J. Deolitis from scoring during the Stevenson Showcase. | Rob Dicker~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 20, 2012 10:57AM
PARK RIDGE — High praise for batters is they have patience at the plate. But Maine East baseball coach Ron Clark praises senior catcher Phil Papaioannou for his perseverance in the dugout and behind the plate this summer.
The Blue Demons, who took a 2-12 record into this week’s IHSBCA playoffs, are young after returning just three starters from last spring’s team, which finished 12-19.
As one of the veterans, Papaioannou could have been frustrated by the team’s inexperience, especially on the pitching staff. But that has not been the case.
“He’s really patient and smart,” Clark said. “He’s going to take some of the younger guys under his wing. He’s a leader and we’re really counting on that to continue, and it will. He’s the kind of kid and leader who can help us grow quickly, especially on a team as young as the one we have this summer.”
Papaioannou said he sees some raw talent, but knows it will be a while before the youngsters are comfortable on the varsity.
“There is definitely a lot of people to work with, but it will take a little time to get them ready for to play at this level,” he said. “But I know what they’re going through. I had a transition (to varsity) my sophomore year. I’m just trying to be patient, while pushing them to get better.”
Papaioannou is not just the team’s emotional leader, he’s also an emerging star. He hit over .300 during his all-conference performance in the spring of 2012. According to Clark, the 6-foot-2, 160-pounder is one of the area’s best defensive catchers and capable of playing in college.
“(Papaioannou) has been outstanding. I can’t say enough good things about his defensive abilities. I don’t see too many who are better than him at blocking the ball, and his calling the game is tremendous.
“His offense is really coming around. He is hitting the cover off the ball for the high school team and his American Legion team this summer. His on-base percentage (in the spring) was high and I see him taking it up to the next level. I see him getting better in the offseason and just being a monster in the spring. He’s going to play college baseball somewhere.”
Papaioannou is doing his best to get seen. He’s playing for the Mount Prospect Bulldogs legion team and was selected for last month’s Stevenson Showcase, where he threw out a runner trying to steal.
Maine East has question marks all over the rest of the diamond.
Prospective center fielder Greg Davis missed much of his junior season and the entire summer with a stress fracture in his lower back.
Incoming senior A.J. Plis logged several innings on the mound last season and is expected to be the team’s No. 1 starter in 2013. Mitch Brion, another senior, is a first-baseman/pitcher who played his best ball late in the summer.
Juniors David Schnobrich, a first baseman, and Will Heins, a middle infielder/pitcher and leadoff man, have shown they are capable of making the transition from the sophomore team.
“This past week or two, we’ve been playing cleaner games, making progress,” Clark said. “I do see improvement, and next spring we should be a better team after we do our work in the offseason.”