Capahas open season tonight vs. Valmeyer

Friday, June 4, 2010
Capahas manager Jess Bolen talks with his son Tom Bolen before an at-bat during the 2007 season. Tom will play for the Capahas this season on a part-time basis after being a full-time player the previous 14 years. The younger Bolen also will assist his father in coaching the team with his eye on some day taking over as manager. (Southeast Missourian file)

Plaza Tire launches its 44th season under manager Jess Bolen

Jess Bolen said with a laugh that at his age he considers his baseball future a year to year proposition.

But Bolen is back for his 44th season as manager of the Plaza Tire Capahas, one of the nation's oldest amateur baseball teams that was formed in 1894.

"Like I say every year, it strictly depends on my health, if I feel good," said the 68-year-old Bolen, who has led the Capahas to a 1,358-360 record and 28 straight trips to the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kan. "I still enjoy it. I wouldn't do it if I didn't enjoy it."

Bolen believes he has a solid blend of returning players and newcomers entering today's 8 p.m. season opener against visiting Valmeyer, Ill. The squads also will play a 1:30 p.m. game Saturday.

The Capahas' 22-man roster features 12 returners from last year along with two others who previously played for the team. Six of the 10 pitchers are back from 2009 along with the 2008 staff ace.

"We've got a nice mix of both [returners and newcomers]. Sometimes that works out well," said Bolen, whose club went 20-12 a year ago and won its fifth consecutive NBC Mid-South Regional title. "I think it's going to be an interesting team."

Although Bolen will start the season with a 22-man roster, that could fluctuate as the summer progresses.

Eight of the 22 play or have played at Southeast Missouri State. Nine of the 22 are current college players, with several being ex-collegiate standouts.

"We'll be young in some spots, with several junior college players," said Bolen, a member of the NBC Hall of Fame.

Returning position players are catcher/outfielder Drew Pixley, infielder Sean Bard and four who can play the infield and outfield: Josh Eftink, Daryl Graham, Matt Wagner and Garrett Stevens.

Returning pitchers are Kirk Boeller, Jason Chavez, Dustin Hunter, Brad LaBruyere, Jamie McAlister and Josh Parham.

Graham, Wagner, McAlister and Parham all played for Southeast, while Boeller and LaBruyere currently compete for the Redhawks.

Pixley plays for Murray State, Bard played for Mississippi Valley State, Eftink played for Central Missouri State, Stevens played for Meramec Community College, Chavez pitched for SIU-Carbondale and Hunter just finished at Mineral Area College.

"The guys we have coming back, I know what they can do," Bolen said. "We've got a lot of pitchers back. That's always a good place to start."

Position newcomers are catcher Greg Craft, a longtime member of the Riverdogs before that area team folded this year; catcher/outfielder Clint Cashen (Mineral Area College); infielder Dylan Drury (Parkland Junior College in Illinois); infielder Jordan Kimball (who recently finished his career at Arkansas State); outfielder Paul Johnson (Three Rivers Community College); and outfielder Blake Gaddis.

Mound additions are Anthony Maupin, an ex-Southeast pitcher and the Capahas' staff ace in 2008; Justin Simpher, a former Capaha who has been pitching for the Riverdogs; current Southeast hurler Jacob Wente; and Cody Hafeli (Kankakee Community College in Illinois).

Local high school products on the roster are Bard (Central), Boeller (Notre Dame), Chavez (Central), Craft (Central), Drury (Notre Dame), Eftink (Notre Dame), Gaddis (Notre Dame), LaBruyere (Central), Parham (Jackson), Simpher (Kelly) and Stevens (Central).

Others from the region are Hunter (Senath), Johnson (Charleston), Kimball (New Madrid), McAlister (Clearwater) and Pixley (Dexter).

"The verdict will have to come during the season," Bolen said when asked what type of squad he expects to have. "Some of these kids I don't know very well. I'll have to see what they do in game situations and go from there."

Notably absent from the Capahas' official roster is Tom Bolen, the manager's son who has played the past 14 seasons.

Jess Bolen said Tom, who is being groomed to take over the program some day, will begin filling more of a coaching role this year.

"Tom will only be a part-time player if he's needed," Jess Bolen said. "He'll be the assistant manager. I'll let him get into a fundamental part of managing -- changing pitchers, making out lineups, the whole works."

Noteworthy

* Jess Bolen said Maupin, Plaza Tire's ace last year, will start today's opener. LaBruyere likely will get the ball Saturday.

* The Capahas' June 27 doubleheader against the St. Louis Printers will be played at Whitey Herzog Stadium in Jackson as part of that facility's official dedication.

* The annual Capahas baseball camp, for boys and girls ages 7 to 17, will be held Monday and Tuesday at Capaha Field. The cost is $65, which includes a Capahas T-shirt and lunch Tuesday.

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