Capahas manager Jess Bolen enters his 41st season with optimism

Friday, June 1, 2007

Jess Bolen is not about to predict how many more years he'll add to his four-decade run as the Plaza Tire Capahas manager.

But if Bolen continues to get as excited for a new season as he is right now -- and his health continues to cooperate -- don't expect his tenure to end any time soon.

"I am very enthusiastic about getting the season started," Bolen said. "The way I look at it, as long as I feel good and I'm healthy ...

"I really enjoy this, being out there with the young guys. If I feel like I can't keep going because of my health, that would be one thing. But right now I feel really good."

Bolen will get his 41st season in charge of Cape Girardeau's highest-level summer baseball team started tonight when the Valmeyer (Ill.) Lakers visit Capaha Field for a 7:30 p.m. first pitch.

The squads will also have a 1 p.m. doubleheader Saturday at Capaha Field.

The Capahas are coming off another strong season as they went 24-11 last year while making their 25th consecutive appearance in the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kan.

Plaza Tire had a respectable showing in Wichita, going 3-2 and tying for 13th place.

Bolen, a former Capahas player, has a 1,277-333 record at the helm of what is believed to be the nation's oldest amateur baseball team. The squad was founded in 1894.

Bolen said he never envisioned running the Capahas this long -- but several factors have aided his cause.

"If it wasn't for my wife Mary raising all the money she does and doing so many other things for the ballclub, and for all the great sponsors we've had over the years, including Plaza Tire right now, there's no way I could have stayed with it this long," he said. "And I've always got really good kids, which makes it even more fun."

Bolen said he is extra energized to get going this season after his wife spent most of last year battling a serious illness.

"With Mary's illness, and me being so depressed all the time, it was really a tough year," Bolen said. "But the guys really pulled us through, which is why I'm looking forward to this season even more."

As for the team he will put on the field, Bolen said this should be among the most versatile squads he has had, with a host of players able to perform at multiple positions, including several pitchers who can also play the field.

"I usually don't rave too much before the season starts, but I'm real excited about this team, and one of the reasons why is I've got a bunch of guys who are real versatile as far as playing different positions," Bolen said. "In summer ball you're always missing somebody for different reasons, so I think that flexibility will help us.

"I think this will be one of the most flexible teams we've ever had."

While Bolen said he might add some players as the season progresses, he currently has a 20-man roster, with 13 of those returning from last year.

Fifteen of the Capahas played collegiately at Southeast Missouri State, ranging as far back as 1999 to as recent as this year's Redhawks squad.

Returning around the field for the Capahas are catcher Levi Olson, first baseman Jordan Payne, shortstop Robby Moore, third baseman Daryl Graham, and outfielders Tom Bolen, Dustin Pritchett and Zach Johnson.

Olson, Payne, Moore, Graham and Pritchett are all Southeast products, with Moore, Graham and Pritchett completing their eligibility this year.

Plaza Tire Capahas manager Jess Bolen talked to one of his players last season during the 72nd National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kansas. Bolen has a 1,277-333 record in 40 seasons at the helm of the team. (Southeast Missourian file)

Bolen, the manager's son, ranks as the longest-tenured current Capaha with 12 years of experience.

Returning pitchers are Chad Bogenpohl, Jason Chavez, Anthony Maupin, Jamie McAlister -- who will also play around the field -- Shayn Mabury and Josh Parham.

Bogenpohl, Maupin, McAlister and Parham are all Southeast products, with Parham completing his eligibility this year. Bogenpohl is the Capahas' most experienced hurler, having finished up at Southeast in 1999. Chavez pitched for SIU.

Among new players, the Capahas will welcome six more Southeast products -- five completed their eligibility this year -- led by second baseman Omar Padilla, along with two-way players Asif Shah and Phillip Riley.

Padilla was Southeast's leading hitter this year, Shah led the Redhawks' in pitching wins and RBIs, and Riley was second in pitching victories.

Other newcomers from Southeast are outfielder/pitcher Brent Lawson -- who will only be with the team for a few weeks before he returns home to California -- catcher Chad Mercado and infielder Zach Blemker, who still has collegiate eligibility remaining.

Rounding out the squad will be one more newcomer, catcher John Amschler, who played at Maryville College in St. Louis and currently is employed maintaining Capaha Field.

"As usual, a lot of the guys who didn't play college ball this year might be a little rusty to start off, but I really like this ballclub," Bolen said. "I think it's going to be a ballclub that people will enjoy watching."

Bolen said Riley will be the starting pitcher in tonight's opener.

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