TAMPA, Fla. – It is never easy to transfer from one school to another midway through one’s post-secondary education, especially as a student athlete.
But that is exactly what Tampa Spartans pitcher Michael Paul did, spending two years with the junior college Santa Fe College Saints, he made the leap to join the reigning NCAA Division II National Champions.
Although the move may have appeared daunting at first, Paul said the ballclub’s winning attitude and his teammates keeping things loose are what helped make his adjustment easier.
“You can go up to any one of those guys and they’re one of my closest friends,” he said. “Having that (loose) attitude at practice is very comfortable.”
He later added that part of what made him want to come to Tampa was the campus being close to family as he lives roughly 45 minutes from the facilities.
The transition has been successful – Paul had a 0.44 ERA, 16 strikeouts, two saves, and a 1-0 record across three starts as of March 10.
Spartans coach Joe Urso has been impressed with the right hander’s improvements throughout the season while simultaneously climbing the depth chart.
“The biggest thing is he attacks the zone as a pitcher,” he said. “Started out in the bullpen and now he’s our number 3 starter. Just been a big asset to the team.”
Paul has not looked out of place in his first two months as a Spartan, but he noticed right away that things were different in comparison to being at Santa Fe. Moving from a developmental league to a university league, he said the biggest difference is what the team wants him to do every day.
“They expect you to know what you’re already doing here,” he said. “I knew I had to come in here with that winning attitude because [they’re] not going to accept anything else.”
Not only that, he expressed his willingness to take on whatever role the team needs from him to help them win games and pitch on the mound.
Being in his Junior year, he is aware that his future in baseball is far from a guarantee. Until that time comes, Paul said he will do all that he can to help the Spartans repeat as champions and realize his wish of pitching in an NCAA playoff game.
“I’ve kind of come to that point where I’m not the hardest thrower on the team or I’m not like a huge draft prospect,” he said. “If it doesn’t happen, it won’t be the end of the world. But if it does, super.”