(Editor’s Note: Chris Cappas is a 2017 graduate of Kellenberg Memorial HS. He just led the Firebirds to a consecutive CHSAA championship and he was named Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year. He batted .438 with 2 HR, 22 RBI and struck out only once. On the mound, he compiled an ERA of 0.18 with 53 strikeouts in 39 innings. He did not allow a run over his final 25 innings of the season. There was much-speculation that he would be selected in the MLB Draft in June, considering the southpaw’s velocity had touched 90 MPH at times. Although he was not, he is now at the University of Pittsburgh and figures to be a major factor right away. The following words are his own.)
Winning the NSCHSAA baseball championship my senior year at Kellenberg is something that I think about almost everyday. There is no better feeling than seeing your team’s hard work and dedication on-and-off the field finally pay off.
Going into the season, I knew that we would have a good team. We had depth, talent and commitment that you do not see very often. What made us a great team, one that most teams did not want to face in the playoffs, was our chemistry. Everyone genuinely enjoyed spending time together not just on the field, but off the field too. The season lasted only a couple of months, and seemed to end in the blink of an eye, but the unique friendships and memories that we made will definitely last a lifetime. This chemistry translated to the field right away. It felt if we played as a team and showed the energy that we all knew we were capable of, we were unbeatable.
Baseball is a game of failures and mistakes. That is inevitable. What made us a fun team to not just play on, but to also watch was that we had each other’s backs. If someone messed up, the man behind him was almost always to minimize the damage or get the job done.
We had a pitching staff and a defense that did not give up a single run in our last 28 innings. We had a lineup and a bench that was posed with constant threats either at the plate or on the base paths. Most importantly, we had a team and coaching staff that quickly became a family.
Playing in the championship felt significantly different than when we won my junior year. This time, I knew what to expect. I was not nervous and I was confident that we would be taking back the championship plaque to Kellenberg. There were also several things that did not change. There were times in the game when it felt as if my heart would beat out of my chest. There were some jaw-dropping plays that played a vital role in the 1-0 game. The game was finally over after a crazy play in the last inning with the tying run on third and the go-ahead run on first. After the check swing and the dropped third strike throw went to first, it was finally time to let the emotion out that was built up inside of us since the night that we won in 2016.
Personally, I had many distractions going through my mind during the season. I knew that a month after the season, I would be playing for a different team, one that did not have any of the guys that I spent four years of high school with. There were several MLB scouts in attendance at almost every game that I pitched in. I committed to the University of Pittsburgh shortly after my junior year. Playing in a competitive conference like the ACC requires a lot of time spent on the road or in the air, traveling all across the Atlantic coast to play some of the best teams in the country, with players that will become stars on professional teams. This meant that I would have to leave for college on June 24 to take a history class and spend five days per week in the weight room and almost every day on the field.
It was a few months before I was set to leave for college, and I had no idea if I was going to be playing professional baseball or at Pitt. These thoughts were constantly rushing through my head, but as soon as I stepped on the mound, it was time to lock in. My goal was to win every pitch, at bat, inning, game and eventually a championship. That was my job and I refused to let any negative distractions prevent me from doing that. Having a defense that did their job almost every time made me realize that all I had to do was pitch. If there was a ball put in play, I was confident that my defense would have my back.
Truthfully, I was not too nervous about where I would end up. I love the game of baseball and I knew that I would be putting 100 percent into the game every day either way. I spent weeks talking to scouts from several teams but unfortunately, I fell short of getting drafted. Of course it hurt for a little, but after spending a few days on campus, I knew that I was better off. I have a beautiful locker room that feels like a second home. have teammates that feel like a second family–just like my high school team. I have a coaching staff, trainers and lifting coaches that all have the same goal in mind: to make us better and a better team. I won two championships in high school but I do not plan on stopping there.
We have a team this year that is capable of doing big things for our program. Everyday I think about stepping on the field wearing the navy and gold for the first time, competing against the best college teams in the world. Just like during high school, there is one thing on my mind when I step onto the field: success.