Joey Loperfido hasn’t had much time to take a breath in between his selection on July 12 by the Houston Astros in the seventh round of this year’s draft, his official signing nine days later, and his landing at the club’s training complex in West Palm Beach, Fla.
The outfielder and proud alumnus of the Haddonfield Memorial High School class of 2017, is counting on the lessons learned at home, in town and on the diamond to carry him through this whirlwind.
“The biggest thing I’ll carry with me is just how hard you have to work in whatever you do whether it’s school or baseball,” he explained during a conversation with the Sun on July 28.
“I got that work ethic from my parents, who got it from their parents. And it’s also about how you treat and interact with people day to day. It’s easy when you come from Haddonfield. Here, you’re with guys 24-7 and it’s a job so you have to represent yourself well.”
For Loperfido, it’s been “pretty much all baseball all the time” since landing in South Florida. He’s on a bus at 7:15 a.m. to the team facility, and once there, following a quick breakfast, he faces an hour or two of meetings. Discussions about defense, fundamentals and intricacies of the game are hot topics.
Then, it’s out to the field, where the requisite stretching precedes throwing and positional work with the outfielders. The day before his interview, Loperfido even got to swing the bat a bit, just five pitches from one of the other prospects in his draft class.
Anything Bryce Harper-esque?
“I drove one ball nicely out to right center. I’m just trying to get my timing down. They weren’t concerned with the results too much,” he admitted. “I should be heading out to A-ball in the next week or so. They had us here just to get us acclimated to playing ball again and to see how the organization works.”
The Astros have four chief minor-league affiliates, A-ball clubs in Fayetteville and Asheville, North Carolina, along with Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Sugar Land, Texas.
Yes, those Astros, the ones who used cameras and buzzers and banging trash cans to help them reach World Series in 2017 and 2019. Fans across the majors have not been shy about expressing their displeasure to Houston players at the revelations of widespread cheating.
Yet the thought of facing bleacher-bum hecklers doesn’t faze the Duke University graduate who remains a Philly sports enthusiast. Growing up, he learned to love the players who showed up every day, worked hard and pushed through all kinds of circumstances.
“I watched guys play like Chase Utley, Brian Dawkins, AI (Allen Iverson) and (saw how) it takes mental toughness to succeed. You have to understand it’s a business and people who are part of passionate fan bases will have no problem expressing themselves,” Loperfido noted.
Developing that thick skin and having to perform under pressure began at a high-powered program like the Haddons. The program left such an impression that Loperfido carried those callouses all the way to winning the 2021 Atlantic Coast Conference tournament ‘Most Valuable Player’. He credits a former Blue Devil teammate for teaching him how to focus that natural truculence.
“I got that from Jimmy Herron, from Harleysville, Pa. (Herron was taken by the Cubs in the third round three years ago). That Northeast toughness is a real thing I can bank on,” he admitted.
Grit aside, Loperfido is now a professional, and as such, must conduct himself as someone worthy of the Astros organization’s trust and contract. Through his time competing in successful and affluent locales, he admits to being aware of critical eyes.
“Playing sports in both places, you always have to be mindful that, whether you like it or not, there’s an X on your back. You end up having to be so concentrated on being a model student-athlete,” he said.
“It’s taught me to always be a good individual, and on the field to conduct myself as a hard nosed but fair player.”
Before he dipped out to recharge, Loperfido wanted to recognize Haddons head baseball coach Bob Bickel, who played a significant role in the young man’s development and who stayed in touch as the prospect’s profile began to rise.
“I can’t thank him enough from the time of our little league camps on up to the varsity team,” he said. “To the town: I’m thankful I got to grow up there. When I think of home, I’ll always think of Haddonfield.”