A Teammate For All
By Emily Iannaconi
Special to GoHolyCross.com
The name George Capen stands for something to many people at Holy Cross. The senior baseball student-athlete from Gainesville, Va., is popularly known around campus as a loyal and dependable teammate, a dedicated student-athlete and a friend that can always be counted on. Head baseball coach Greg DiCenzo knows that Capen is one of a kind. “I have never had someone like George on any team in my 19 years of coaching,” said DiCenzo. “He bleeds purple for this school. Not just for this athletic department, but for this college. He's great for this college and this college has been great for George.”
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
Capen, who has the most appearances of any pitcher in school history with 97 and earned All-Patriot League accolades this season, could not always be found on the mound growing up. All throughout high school, Capen served as both a shortstop and a pitcher. “If you asked me 15 years ago if I thought that I would only be pitching, I would probably guess no,” said Capen.
Balancing shortstop with pitching helped Capen learn how to be a multi-dimensional player. Having experienced many different plays from the shortstop position in high school to pitching in different types of situations has helped Capen feel increasingly comfortable on the mound. “I'm not scared of any one particular moment,” said Capen. “No matter how big a situation is, I don't shy away from it, I want it.”
It was not until college that he began focusing on pitching specifically and he embraced the role. “I know what it's like to pitch in the first inning and I know what it's like to pitch in the ninth inning," said Capen. “I know what it's like to pitch when we're losing and I know what it's like to pitch when we're winning. I have had to fill a bunch of different roles which I have found very fun.”
DiCenzo further expressed the trust that he has in Capen. “George is one of the most committed Crusaders we have in terms of game day contributions,” said DiCenzo. "He is a guy that every coach dreams of in terms of being able to lean on him and go to him in any situation from a pitching standpoint. He is the guy that when we look down to the bullpen, we know that he is willing and able and will give everything he has for the team. He is always ready to contribute innings one through nine.”
THE ULTIMATE TEAM PLAYER
Capen has also shown dedication to his fellow student-athletes off the baseball diamond. This past fall, when the men's soccer team needed a backup goalie halfway through its season, Capen stepped up to help the team even though he had never played soccer before.
Capen was therefore not overly prepared for the tryout but wanted to help out the soccer team in any way that he could. “I tried out in my baseball cleats with assistant men's soccer coach Ben Graham and had to borrow his gloves,” explained Capen. “I didn't think I had made it but then I got an email from coach Graham later that day asking if I wanted to travel down to Navy with the team.”
For the remainder of the season, Capen, who coincidentally wore the same jersey number in soccer that he wears in baseball (No. 25), sacrificed his time and effort to practice, play and travel with the soccer team, an experience that he is extremely grateful for. Capen valued the chance to play for a different Division I team and he understood that soccer meant everything to his new teammates and coaches. He therefore gave one hundred percent effort to the team and was welcomed with open arms. “The guys took me in as if I was a soccer player, which was awesome,” said Capen. “I hope that I brought something at least to the locker room for the guys. Because if they can see that I'm out there after having never played soccer before in my life, then maybe they are motivated in some small way too.”
Head men's soccer coach Marco Koolman believes that Capen helped create a positive team atmosphere. “George is the ultimate teammate and team player that a coach could wish for,” said Koolman. “He sacrificed and committed his time to the soccer program, which was a massive help for us. George always has a smile on his face and he added something special to the team on and off the field.”
Coach DiCenzo knows that Capen's decision to try out for the team is symbolic of his desire to help his peers and to contribute to Holy Cross athletics as a whole. “The soccer team was down a man and they called on a kid who had never played the game before, but was still willing to give everything he had to help that program,” said DiCenzo.
REWRITING THE ENDING
Thus, in more ways than one, Capen bleeds purple for Holy Cross athletics and he will do whatever he can to help any team succeed. His biggest goal this year for the baseball team was to win a Patriot League championship. Having taken the loss in game three of the 2016 championship series against Navy, Capen wanted a different ending this season.
“Going in to this year, I wanted that moment back," said Capen. “I already knew what it felt like to lose the championship game so I wanted to know what it felt like to win a championship game.”
Having pitched in both tournament games against Bucknell this year, and recording the last six outs in the second game, Capen is incredibly excited to have helped bring a Patriot League Tournament championship to Holy Cross baseball for the first time in program history. “It does not make last year's loss okay, but it makes this year's win that much better and that much more special,” said Capen.
LEAVING A LASTING LEGACY
Capen hopes that his team and particularly the class of 13 seniors, are remembered not only for bringing the first Patriot League championship to Holy Cross, but also for creating a culture of resilience. “If you look at a lot of the games that we won in the second half of our season we didn't win them easily,” said Capen. “We would get down and we had to come back. I hope that next year, if the team gets down, they get right back up and fight back.”
Capen is not just going to miss the feeling of tossing his glove high up into the air after striking out the final Bucknell batter to secure the championship for the Crusaders. He is going to miss the teammates that he played with and the coaches that he learned from. “I'm going to miss a lot about playing at Holy Cross,” said Capen. “A lot of times people talk about the relationship and chemistry you build with guys off the field, which is great, but I think that the chemistry we've built on the field is awesome. Guys are always getting fired up for each other and always having each other's backs.”
Though Capen is not entirely sure where he will be after Holy Cross, he is positive about one thing: he will continue to be surrounded by the sport of baseball whether that is as a player or a coach. “I've gained a tremendous amount of respect for coach DiCenzo and what he does and that's been a big influence on what I want to do,” said Capen. “No matter what though, I want to stay around the game that I love.”
Regardless of where he ends up, Capen will take the skills that he has learned from playing both baseball and soccer at Holy Cross with him wherever he goes. “I have learned that I can take on any challenge,” said Capen. “I can go join a soccer team after never having played soccer my entire life and make a roster. I can go in to any baseball situation and be confident that I can get the job done. I can set goals and reach them.”
Having filled so many different roles for Holy Cross Athletics, Capen will certainly be missed by many members of the Crusader community next year. He will be remembered for fearlessly taking on any challenge that was thrown his way and for always supporting his teammates both on and off the baseball diamond.
Be sure to not miss Capen and the Crusaders take on Oregon State in the team's first NCAA Tournament appearance in 39 years on Friday, June 2 at 11:00 p.m. on ESPNU. The game can also be viewed online at ESPN.com/watch or with the Watch ESPN app. Oregon State is currently the No. 1-ranked team in the nation by D1Baseball.com. The other two teams selected to the Corvallis Regional were No. 21 Nebraska and Yale.
The first round of the tournament features a double elimination format, with one team from each of the 16 regionals advancing to the super regionals.
Vote Critelli for Senior CLASS Award
Senior first baseman Anthony Critelli was one of 10 student-athletes in the nation to be named a finalist for the Senior CLASS Award, which honors a student-athlete who demonstrates notable achievements in four areas of excellence: community, classroom, character and competition.
Click here to read his announcement as a finalist.