WAILUKU - Branden Kaupe has a lot to do these days.
Since his first interview with The Maui News hours after being the fourth-round draft choice of the New York Mets last Tuesday, he has talked to other Hawaii media, The New York Times, New York Magazine, NewYorkMets.com and MLB.com. Mix in graduation parties and goodbyes, and it has been a whirlwind the last week.
"To be honest, I didn't even pack yet," the recent Baldwin High School graduate said midday Monday.
Kaupe was scheduled to leave with his family for the Mets' spring training facility in Port St. Lucie, Fla., on Monday night. At 140th overall, he is the second-highest baseball draft pick ever from Maui County, behind only Kurt Suzuki, a former Baldwin standout who was selected by the Oakland Athletics out of Cal State Fullerton with the 67th pick in 2004.
"It didn't really hit yet, but when I leave tonight, going from my island, watching myself leave on a plane, it will probably kick in," Kaupe said.
After a team physical on Wednesday, and agility tests and a workout on Thursday, Kaupe is expected to sign his contract Friday.
The family trip - father Napa, mother Joy and little sister Nawai, 13, will all be along for the ride - will send all of them farther east than any of them has been. Branden is the family leader in that category with his trip to Arizona with Team Hawaii under coach Dwayne Eldredge last year.
Kaupe will begin his professional career a week from today for the Kingsport, Tenn., Mets in their opening series at the Princeton, W.Va., Rays in the rookie-level Appalachian League.
Kaupe played in two state finals for the Bears. In 2012 he hit .511 with five doubles, three triples, two homers, 16 steals, 21 RBIs and no strikeouts in 45 at-bats over 18 games.
As a second-base prospect for the Mets, he wants to keep doing the same sort of thing, albeit a world away in rural Tennessee. He said he expects "care packages" containing opihi and POG to be mailed by his mother, but otherwise it will just be baseball.
"I don't get nervous, but I ... know that I am going to miss home, so I am going to turn around and use that as fuel to work hard up there because when it is time to come home, I want to be the man that is happy to celebrate and not be the guy who is down and is saying, 'I give up,' " he said. "I am excited and ready to go, but probably not as much as people might think because to me it is just more baseball."
Nawai Kaupe, a key member of last year's state championship Little League team coached by her father, will return home for her 8th-grade year at Iao School with a prized new possession - her brother's "lucky" glove.
"I am going to tell her to just work hard because thing you know it is her turn," Branden Kaupe said. "She is good enough to be playing varsity ball right now, at any school."
Nawai Kaupe said she will miss her big brother, but that glove will come in handy.
"It is really lucky because I have made choke outs with that glove," she said. "I just used it Saturday."
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org