Born and raised in Nutley, New Jersey, Giuseppe Papaccio, enjoyed playing sports growing up with his friends, especially soccer and basketball. Recognizing the rich baseball culture in Nutley, Papaccio found not only a reputable coach and gym teacher, but mentor in Tom Garjulo, while attending Lincoln Elementary School.
“When I would go to gym class every day him and I would talk baseball among other things. Our relationship started when I attended Division I Baseball Camps as a kid,” said Giuseppe Papaccio. “He really is an all-around man, very serious focused, respectful and took the development of a person very seriously.”
In 8th grade, Papaccio said he thought making the varsity baseball team was the equivalent to making it to the big leagues. However, it was Papaccio’s father (Pietro), that convinced him to reach even higher to become a better player.
“I was always a good player growing up when I got to high school, my father and I both knew it was time to take the next step in my development,” Giuseppe Papaccio said. “He did not have a baseball background but I think he could see the passion I had for the game and he pushed me to test my limits, to do what the other players weren’t doing.” Papaccio started taking training a little bit more seriously and that led him being able to play more confidently when it came to game time.
“I took pride in playing shortstop because he is usually one of the best athletes as well as the quarterback on the field.” Growing up, Papaccio always followed Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez very closely. “I always admired how much talent they had and how much responsibility they carried.”
All the long hours of training paid off Papaccio in being recruited by major Division I colleges such as Seton Hall, St. John’s, Monmouth University and Binghamton. Ultimately, Papaccio decided on attending Seton Hall with the critical factor that so many of his family members had attended the university.
“My Mom (Melinda) went there and has been an English professor there for 20 years,” said Giuseppe Papaccio. “My aunt, brother and sister went there also.” Papaccio made his decision based on the proximity to home and relationship he developed with the coaching staff.
“There had been countless professional baseball players and legendary college players that went through the program so I knew the rich history behind it. I knew there was some grit and hard involved in earning playing time.” When Papaccio stepped on campus, he was not as polished as he would have liked to be but the coaching staff helped mold him into the Big East caliber player by the spring of freshman year.
“Papaccio had his “welcome to College Baseball moment in Seton Hall’s opening weekend at Texas A & M. “One of the best baseball venues in the league, we are warming up doing sprints down the line and 10 minutes before the game starts my name goes up on the scoreboard, ‘batting 8th Giuseppe Papaccio playing third base’ and I said Oh My God,” Giuseppe Papaccio remarked. “They didn’t even tell me I was starting. I was kind of tossed into the fire and I think there were 6,000 people there, it was an unreal atmosphere. Throughout the whole year the coaches stuck with me, I was trying to learn the game the best I could and stuck with me and that first game I will never forget.”
Returning for his sophomore year, Papaccio ended up playing second base before transitioning back to third base for the remainder of the year. He started at Shortstop his Junior and Senior seasons and in his final season Papaccio was BIG EAST and New Jersey Collegiate Baseball Association (NJCBA) Player of the Year as well as All-American honors putting up phenomenal stats at the plate, Papaccio hit .365, led the Big East in doubles and set a Seton Hall record with 56 doubles and single-season mark of 24 and finished with 237 career hits.
“My all-around experience at SHU was amazing from being picked to finish 11 out of 13 teams, and then winning that year’s Big East Championship, to play alongside a bunch of pro players. My college experience is something that shaped me to be the person I’m today. I learned so much from Rob Sheppard, Phil Cundari, Mark Pappas and Jim Duffy who recruited me.”
“I always studied the mental game of baseball but it all came together for my senior year.” He grew physically, felt stronger and he was in the best shape of his college career. The shortstop always felt like the talent was present but most importantly he felt a lot more mentally stable and consistent with his thought process which led to a breakthrough in performance.
Papaccio on his final college baseball game at Seton Hall, “It was emotional for me, we lost in the conference tournament and on the fringe of getting into the NCAA Tournament with a large bid. We had so many good players and thought we had a chance to win the tournament. Seton Hall competing in what was considered the “Old Big Beast” which consisted of Louisville, Notre Dame, Pitt, West Virginia and USF (University of South Florida). The Pirates were considered one of the best teams in that league and finished the regular season ranked in the top 25 in the country but did not receive an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament which was a harsh end to a great four years.”
Accomplishments were not solely on the baseball diamond for Papaccio. In the classroom he achieved liberal studies with a double minor in communications and writing while taking sports journalism, public relations, communication and public speaking classes. The pinnacle of Papaccio’s college career would occur with getting drafted in the 18th round of the MLB Draft by the Chicago Cubs.
“It was awesome, I had a really unique situation where I was drafted on my 22nd birthday by the Cubs,” Giuseppe Papaccio said. “Me and my twin sister Michela kind of shared that celebration with a draft party/birth celebration.” Getting the call, he was going to be the Cubs 18th round selection on his birthday is something he will never forget.
There ended up being no rest for Papaccio, after signing the contract and jetting out to Arizona to play in rookie ball. The stay would be short-lived playing for about a week and half before moving on to Single A playing for the Kane County Cougars in Geneva, Illinois.
Kane County was a quick 45-minute drive from Wrigley Field so the Chicago Cubs fans trickled into the Single-A affiliate at a high rate. Papaccio finished the summer on a strong note hitting close to .300 before heading to Instructional League in the fall.
Describing the ride for the next couple of years as a rollercoaster, Papaccio would bounce around from High A in Daytona to Low A, Double A and Boise in the Northwest League. “High A I was in Daytona where I lived a block off the beach with a couple of guys on the team. In the morning we played some volleyball and then go right to the field so that was a great experience. When I was in Double A, I was living in a hotel by myself for a little bit and that was different. I played in Boise for Gary Van Tol who is now the head coach at Boise State and had a great host family.”
“There were some host families with the Cubs that were awesome. When you go home and you have a nice home cooked meal and live in a nice house. That’s not the case everywhere you go but I got fortunate and having people by your side makes it so much better.”
Being on your own right out of college was challenging at times when baseball wasn’t going your own way, all you rely on were phone calls and text messages from family and friends.” He does not have any regrets from his experience with the Cubs, he put in the work and effort, developed relationships with coached and players but ultimately did not make it to the MLB.
Released by the Cubs in the first week of August, Papaccio was looking for the opportunity to still play baseball. Luckily two players that Papaccio had played with at Seton Hall in Greg Terhune and Will Walsh were on the Rockland Boulders (Can-Am League) roster and Papaccio was contacted by Boulders pitching coach, Bobby Jones.
“I sent Greg a text and said do you guys need a shortstop, I just got home and have to play,” said Giuseppe Papaccio. “I had an agent at the time working to see if there were any openings anywhere and willing to purchase my contract. I reached out to them knowing they were playing for the Boulders. When Junior Arrojo was on the DL and they needed another infielder. Bobby Jones reached out to me and I played a little bit for him when I was in high school and lived one town over from me.”
“Jamie Keefe called and said ‘why don’t you come up’ and three days after I was released, I was playing for the Boulders.” The first day Papaccio arrived, he was pleasantly surprised with everything the Boulders had to offer their players and fans. “They are a first-class organization with a first-class facility (Provident Bank Park/Palisades Credit Union Park).” He played with five guys he knew very well in Greg Terhune, Will Walsh, Sean O’Hare, Nate Roe, Charlie and Steve Nyisztor, who he played with and against in high school and college. “I was fortunate that I walked into the locker room and knew a bunch of faces and you usually don’t get that luxury in professional baseball.”
Thinking it would take some time before he made his first appearance in a Boulders uniform, Papaccio was in for a quite a surprise. “Jamie (Keefe) called me up and said ‘come tomorrow’,” Giuseppe Papaccio said. “I thought I was going to work out, take BP (batting practice) and ground balls.” He said ‘you are going to play third base tonight’ and I said ‘okay and let’s do this thing.’ I played pretty much after that one throughout the summer.”
The Boulders ended up going on a magical run, finishing with a 56-40 regular season, winning their first pennant in franchise history and in the championship series against the New Jersey Jackals down 0-2, reeling off four consecutive victories for the first championship title.
“When we won that championship, to win at any level in baseball extraordinary and that much better with a bunch of guys I really enjoyed spending time with and competing next to them,” said Giuseppe Papaccio. “It was icing on the cake, a rough year for me emotionally because of the stuff I went through playing and to finish it off with an experience like that.”
“The fan base in Rockland is awesome, they traveled down to Yogi Berra Stadium and I will never forget that. Down 0-2 to New Jersey, the Boulders did not panic, there was no reason to. Game 3 we were not trying to win the whole series, just playing confident and loose and one game at a time. It worked out for us and get hot at the right time.”
“We went back a couple of days after we won the championship and had the ring ceremony and a lot of people there. It was awesome to be part of the community, I don’t live too far from there and to be a local guy was great. We filled that stadium so often and fans were awesome and close to you and big supporters. It’s so enjoyable to play in front of and to get that many people in independent ball is unheard and we were really fortunate. You get some families that come into town and friends that makes for a really good atmosphere and one of my best playing experiences was in Rockland.”
Coming back in 2015, the Boulders won a franchise record 63 games and set numerous franchise and league records. Despite being eliminated by Trois-Rivieres in the first round of the playoffs, Papaccio cherished the time spent with teammates and manager, Jamie Keefe.
“Playing on that team with a group of really talented and best players in the league,” Giuseppe Papaccio said. “Guys like Joe Maloney, Charlie Law, Junior Arrojo, Marcus Nidiffer, Jared McDonald and Stephen Cardullo.” Papaccio raved about his relationship with Former Manager, Jamie Keefe, in saying that he was great at developing relationships with his players and getting them to play hard for him, each other and the fans.
Shortly after the Boulders were eliminated from the playoffs, Papaccio decided he wanted to make a career move by getting into coaching. “I was an All-American at Seton Hall, drafted by the Cubs, a couple of years of pro ball and playing in Rockland, I got done playing in the middle of the summer and I wanted to get into coaching,” said Giuseppe Papaccio. “I started reaching out to my network of college coaches that I knew and reached out to Jim Duffy, who was the head coach at Manhattan College and recruited me at Seton Hall.” One of Papaccio’s biggest mentors hired him to be one of his assistants and gave him the opportunity to start his coaching career.
“I played my last in Rockland and five days later I was coaching on the campus of Manhattan College. My turnover period was not even a week, the quickest thing I learned was you spend your whole career as a player focusing on how to get yourself better and then quickly the focus turns to other players as a coach.”
Seeing players progress physically and mentally is his favorite part of his job. He believes nothing is more rewarding seeing a player progress from his hard work and effort whether it being on the field or just becoming more confident and aware. “I just poured the same effort, passion and love I had for playing the game into coaching the game.”
After spending a year at Manhattan College, Papaccio returned to his alma mater Seton Hall for the next two years. In addition, Pappacio was the head coach of the Monmouth Monarchs in 2016 and Ocean Giants in 2017 while serving as an assistant coach with the Ocean Firebirds in the Cape Cod League in 2018.
“It was special to coach at Seton Hall because I knew much of the staff, faculty and athletic department,” Giuseppe Papaccio said. “I felt like I was going home in a sense and my experience there was great. At Seton Hall everything is growing with a new stadium, consistent teams’ year in and out and I have a really good relationship with the people I worked with and goes all the way up to the upper administration.”
“I was the college head coach of a team for two summers, when the college baseball season would end kids played in the Jersey Shore leagues and coached a bunch of Division I kids from all over. Being a head coach, I was young, putting together a lineup, making substitutions and roster in a different way. When you are a head coach you have to deal with pitching, defense and base running. You have to do everything at one time when you are head coach and gave me a really good experience.”
“When I was an assistant coach in the Cape Cod League for Orleans (Firebirds), the best summer league you can be in. A bunch of pro prospects playing on the team. One of the best experiences with head coach Kelly Nicholson, Jamie Quinn, Chris Constantine and Ryan Erickson. They are an awesome staff and been there for a while. I got to coach high level players and see a different talent level. When you coach players at a higher level, to see their bounce back time and ability to put in the work and whatever you are teaching them is immediately the difference between them and middle of the road of road Division I player.”
“The community in Chatham (Massachusetts) breathes for baseball and coaching in an atmosphere like that and kids love to play summer baseball. We’re playing in the best summer league in the country, having good energy every day and really passionate about the game and joy to coach.”
While coaching in the Cape Lod League, another coaching opportunity popped up for Papaccio with NJIT calling his name and opportunity that could not be passed up to become the first assistant coach at an ASUN conference school. “I knew Robby (McClellan) just from competing against each other and we worked some recruiting events when I was at Seton Hall,” Giuseppe Papaccio said. “He was an assistant at NJIT and we developed a relationship.” Giuseppe was Robbie’s first call when McClellan was named the Head Coach at NJIT. Much like his first time in Rockland, Papaccio was pleasantly surprised the first time he stepped on campus at NJIT. The new head coach toured with Papaccio around the brand new athletic facilities and campus before introducing him to some of his new coworkers.
“Robby has a really good personality when it comes to dealing with the players and being on the same level as them.” Papaccio commended McClellan for his open and welcoming demeanor when it comes to his relationship and coaching style. “Any player can come in and talk to us at any time and I think that’s comforting when you are a college student.”
Papaccio believes his coaching style has a balanced mix of “Old school and new school.” He is one of the youngest Division I assistant coaches in the area and that helps him relate to the players and he says, “I think they appreciate the fact I am very hands-on when it comes to practice and training. I remember as a player, I liked to see the coaches jump in there with us so I use that in my coaching style.”
This year Papaccio earned an additional role/title with the team as the new recruiting coordinator. Papaccio says the high standards of education at NJIT, top notch facilities, playing in the ASUN and proximity to New York City play a vital role in recruiting players not only locally but nationally.
“I am trying to build on the foundation laid by Robbie in recruiting better played every year. We have a good idea of which high school players would have a successful playing and academic career at NJIT.” The school was named a top 100 University and they have an extremely strong and respected Business program as well as engineering programs. Papaccio added, “Our athletic director, Lenny Kaplan, who is also the Vice President has a really good vision and done an unbelievable job with the athletics and facilities for almost 20 years.”
The NJIT assistant thinks that playing in the conference with all the warm weather states like Florida, Alabama, Virginia, Tennessee and Georgia is the key in the recruitment of high-level baseball players from all over the country.
The Highlanders played at the Newark Bears stadium for a number of years but after the property was sold, the stadium was torn down last winter. For the next year, NJIT plays their home games where the Somerset Patriots and Sussex County Miners play their home games and split their home conference schedules with two series at each stadium. “I seriously love going into work every day, working with these guys, awesome kids who are smart, bright and really respectful.”
Most important to Papaccio in his educational, playing and coaching career has been the support from his family. Having to deal with the tragic loss of his brother Nunzio a year and half ago, he has a little different perspective and more of an appreciation for each day that gets to do what he loves.
“Michela, my parents and brother (Nunzio) put me in the best opportunity and situation,” Giuseppe Papaccio said. “They gave me everything I needed to succeed. Both of my parents never let off the hook, taught me life lessons but also supported and loved me. All the success I had in college and my personal life and done so much for me. My sister and parents are a big support system and I love them for that.”
“Michela, my parents and brother (Nunzio) put me in the best opportunity and position,” Giuseppe Papaccio said. “They gave me everything I needed to succeed.” He explained that his parents never let him off the hook and never let him settle for average. “All the success I had in college and my personal life would not have been possible without the love and support from my family and wife.”