Athlete of the month: Cole Paplham

Matthew Harvey, Multimedia Manager

When asking assistant baseball coach Zach Stuart for his recommendation for player of the month, there was little hesitation before he made a choice. “You’ll want to talk to that kid over there,” he said, pointing across the gym to a stalky figure in a black shirt, fitting his hand with a mitt preparing for practice. “That’s Cole,” he added.
From as far back as freshman pitcher Cole Paplham could remember, he’s been infatuated with the game of baseball. He recalls his upbringing in Wisconsin, where he picked up T-ball in 1st grade, the first time he seriously tried out a sport.
“Once I got to little league, I was pretty dominant as a pitcher,” he said. “I fell in love with the game from way back then.”
Paplham attended Denmark high school, just outside of Green Bay, where was a two-way player, moving around the field from shortstop, to outfielding. For Cole, though, becoming a pitcher was the only true fit. “Even as a kid I was obsessed with pitching,” he said. “My favorite team was always the Brewers, but when it comes to watching pitchers, there’s a beauty in it no matter the team.”
Despite his affinity for pitching, Cole was viable in his out-fielding positions as well. He was named to the All-Conference first team for it his senior year. “I knew after high school that those days of playing a bunch of different positions and playing two-way were over,” he said. “I had talked to a few guys from Lake Land and they were telling me just how difficult it was.”
It also didn’t help that he was fresh off recovery from an intercostal muscle injury from early in his senior year.
“It was our first conference game that year, and I had to sit out most of the season,” he said.
Though the injury kept him off the field, it didn’t remove him from the eye of recruiters; in the state of Wisconsin, Cole ended his career ranked 16th amongst right-handed pitchers, and in the top 50 players overall according to baseball scouting organization Perfect Game.
“Since I was a kid, I knew I was going to play college baseball,” he said. “I was looking at about seven different schools, but after my visit to Lake Land, it felt like the most natural fit for me.”
When Cole and I met for our conversation he was dressed for a training session rather than an interview. He was decked head to toe in athletic gear as he’s not one to be caught unprepared for the gym.
“I spend about an hour or two a day throwing bullpens, or flat grounds,” he said.
“Even on days when coach said we have an off day, I get outside and practice with Puckett.” Sophomore Brandon Puckett is a lefty pitcher from St. Anthony high school in Effingham. “Even though we’re on opposite hands, we’re able to help each other out quite a bit. We really get after it.”
The training is already paying dividends for Paplham— within a semester of college he’s increased his max fast ball speed from 84 to 90 mph. He names his curveball his best pitch and Coach Stuart as his secret weapon on the field.
“There are times when I know what pitch is going to strike a hitter out, but for the most part I trust coach Stu’s call.”
It’s easy to measure Paplham’s physical improvements as a pitcher, but the biggest hurdle he’s overcome comes from within.
“If I had to name one thing that I’ve been able to improve on since starting my career here, it would have to be my attitude on the field,” he said. “It was something that even my brothers struggled with so I guess it’s in my blood, but Coach Jackson has done a lot to help me keep a clear head on the field.”
The strategies head coach Bill Jackson has implored have even helped Paplham better himself off the court. His mantra of “the past is the past, there’s nothing you can do to change it,” is simple, but sobering. “There are times where I might not do so great on an assignment, but I think back to those things and I’m able to prepare myself to do better moving forward.”
Paplham’s mental improvements, he thinks, will be an asset to the team moving forward. “We’re in the games every time, we just have to close them out better,” he said. “Going into conference play, I think the coaches feel better trusting me to come in and throw some pitches that will win games for us when we need it.”

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