|★ Hall of Fame Member ★
Mike 'Dinosaur' Lapi is one of the most successful catchers to play in the Bull League, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2017. In 18 years of playing, he won the Gold Crown Award a total of 11 times, including 10 times as a catcher, the most of any player at that position. He is also second on the all-time Most Valuable Player Award list, behind legendary Hall of Famer Carl Simms.
During his career, he played for seven different teams, spending most of his career in the Lake League (with Kingston, Toronto, Hamilton, Ohio, New York, and twice with Chicoutimi), but also spent six seasons in the American Eagle League (with Richmond and then California).
At the height of his career, the Ravens were paying him $17.8 million per season (2005-2007).
Lapi holds career batting records among catchers for numerous categories, including batting average (.316), OBP (.427), SLG (.596), games (1,115), at bats (4,003), Home Runs (278), RBIs (878) and more. He also still holds the single-season record among catchers for runs scored (74) and RBIs (82).
Kingston Battlements: 1995-1997
Mike was a key part of the early successes that the Kingston Battlements saw in their first years, earning the coveted Gold Crown Award at the catcher position in each of his three years with Kingston. In 1996, the team finished first with a 49-31 (.613) record, and the team stomped over New York in the LLCS 3-1 to reach the Bull Cup series against the Richmond Ravens.
Lapi had a great 1996, with a 5-for-5 game in June against Hamilton, his first Player of the Week award the following month, and was also named July's Batter of the Month despite spending four days on the Disabled List with an ankle injury.
At the end of the season, he signed a one-year extension with the team for $3 million, and was named All Star Game MVP in 1997. He became a free agent at the end of the next year, and looked to sell his talent to the next highest bidding team.
Toronto Ducks: 1998-1999
Mike joined the Toronto Ducks in 1998 and stayed until the end of the following season, contributing 32 home runs, 84 runs, and 92 RBIs during that time, and winning his fourth Gold Crown Award in his second year there. Lapi had initially signed a six year contract with the Ducks, but Toronto's poor record led him to exercise his opt-out clause after the 1999 season, becoming a free agent after just two years there.
A hamstring strain kept him from the lineup for much of 1998, hampering his performance, but he still managed to produce a .371 batting average, and walked more than he struck out (25 walks to 22 strikeouts) in 42 games. In 1999, he hit for a team-record .346 (at that time) over a full season. He also set team records for runs (58), total bases (169), and home runs (21) that year. Those records have since been broken, but many of them stood for another five seasons.
Chicoutimi Cinquantes: 2000
Lapi's breakout year came in 2000, his first year of a four-year contract with the Chicoutimi Cinquantes. He once again made the LL All-Star team, for his fifth time, took home his first MVP award, won his fifth Gold Crown Award at the catcher spot, was named LL Player of the Week twice that season, and was the July 2000 Batter of the Month winner for the LL.
However, in spite of his stellar performance, the team finished in 2nd place with a 48-32 (.600) record, 5 games behind his former team, the Kingston Battlements, and did not make the playoffs - there was no wild card entry at that time. He hit a respectable .361, knocking in 26 homers, and had a league-leading OPS of 1.258.
Disappointed and looking to make his first playoffs, he again exercised his option and left for free agency.
Hamilton Industrials: 2001-2002
The Hamilton Industrials had been the LL West division first place team in 2000, and when they offered Lapi an impressive 6-year, $72.6 million contract, he jumped at the opportunity, signing early in the off-season.
The team performed well, but Lapi personally struggled, hitting below .300 for the first time in his career in 2001 and again the following year. His home run production also dipped, though he was used aggressively on the basepaths and set a career record for steals, just 3, in 2001. The following year, Hamilton won the Bull Cup championship, but he was personally disappointed in his performance with the club, and again opted-out from the remainder of his contract, for the third time in his career, choosing to test free agency once again.
Return to Chicoutimi Cinquantes: 2003-2004
Chicoutimi was still as interested in Lapi's talent as ever, and were building a playoff contending club for the 2003. The team re-signed Lapi, this time to a 6-year contract worth an eye-popping $99.2 million. The 32 year old quickly proved he was worth the pay raise, hitting a career-best 28 home runs and slugging percentage of .736 (both of which still stand as team single-season records), also leading the LL in both categories, along with doubles (with 26). He won the 2003 LL MVP, then followed that with a career-high .373 average the following year, helping the Cinq's win their first Bull Cup in 2004, in a series against Chicago in which he was also named 2004 Bull Cup MVP, and was awarded the LL MVP for the second year in a row.
However, fickle as ever, and certain he could earn a larger paycheck, he opted out of his fourth contract (and the second time with Chicoutimi), and became a free agent at the end of 2004.
Richmond Ravens: 2005-2008
The Richmond Ravens signed Lapi a month later, to a four-year, $69 million deal. He won his fourth MVP in his second year of the contract, becoming one of the few players to win an MVP in both leagues. He took home two Gold Crown Awards with Richmond, including his first as a Designated Hitter, and was an AEL All-STar in all four years of his service with the Ravens.
Statistically, he was now on a downward trend, although he managed to tie his career-high in home runs, with 28, in his MVP year, 2006, also setting a career-high in RBIs that same season.
California Tidals: 2009-2010
The California Tidals picked up the aging veteran, now 38, and living up to his 'Dinosaur' nickname, but he produced two terrible seasons with them, hitting .241 in 2009 and just .196 in 2010, and only homering a total of 20 times over both years. He missed several weeks in 2010 tending to a foot injury, and California allowed his contract to run out.
Ohio Oxen: 2011
Ohio was interested in veteran slugger, taking a chance on him for $2.84 million in a one-year deal, in which he played just one game as a catcher, spending most of his time as a designated hitter, or pinch hitter. He did manage to finish 2011 with a .267 average, his highest since 2008, but his home run production dropped dramatically, hitting just 4 in 59 games.
Ohio did not extend his contract, instead looking to other directions for the following year, and Lapi was once again a free agent.
New York Minutemen: 2012
Lapi had decided after signing with the New York Minutemen for the 2012 that he would make that year his last in his pro baseball career. The 41 year old had just five starts as a DH, 7 games in total, batting .250 over 20 at bats. His main role was as a mentor to the younger players, like Matt Keels (C) and Tony Cruz (LF).
On September 16, 2012, he announced his retirement from baseball publicly.
Mike was one of the greatest catchers to play the game, accumulating many awards for his offensive play. He was Player of the Week 15 times and Batter of the Month 6 times over his career. He was selected to the LL and AEL All-Star teams a total of 14 times, nearly every season he played. He was also named Most Valuable Player four times, including 3 times in the LL and once in the AEL, and was the best hitter at his position 11 times — 10 as a catcher, and once as a DH.
His name still appears in most batting categories as an all-time leader among catchers.
Career Batting Stats
Hall of Fame Induction
Mike 'Dinosaur' Lapi was the first catcher to be inducted into the Bull League Hall of Fame, in January 2017. With his outstanding career history and highlights, he was easily voted in his first time on the ballot, garnering 98.3% of the votes - the second highest induction vote ever (behind Iron Arm). Lapi was the fourth player inducted to the Hall of Fame as a Chicoutimi Cinquantes player.