By Cary Shuman
Joe Caponigro has stepped down as the head coach of the Lynn English High School baseball team but his connection to the school and its former players is still strong.
In fact, Caponigro has several Bulldogs baseball alumni on his roster for the Swampscott Sox in the North Shore Baseball League. The team won its tenth game of the season Sunday against the Manchester Marlins and loom as a strong contender for the championship.
To a man, the former English players say that Joe Caponigro advanced their love of the game, taught them lessons on and off the field that they still carry with them, and feel honored to be continuing their player-coach relationship for the successful Swampscott Sox ballclub.
Richie Arias, who played four seasons (2006-9) at English, said that Caponigro has been a coach and a mentor to him.
“There were some tough years in my life, but thanks to him, I got on the right path,” said Arias, 26. “Everything about him is amazing. After I played for four years in the Can-Am Independent League, I came back to Lynn and asked if I could play for his team and thankfully he allowed me to join the Sox.”
Ryan Healey, an outstanding catcher at English (Class of 2006) who went on to play college baseball at Brandeis and Stonehill, said simply, “Joe Caponigro is one of the best baseball guys around. I’ve been playing for the Sox since 2005 and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Brian Maynard, 25, played four seasons at English and continued his career at the College of Saint Rose.
“It’s great experience having all the guys from English together playing for coach Caponigro,” said Maynard. “He has a total understanding of baseball and what it takes to be good at the game. He is like a father figure to us and we loved playing baseball for him.”
Eric Fields, who was an assistant coach on Caponigro’s staff at English, said that Caponigro officiated at his wedding three weeks ago.
“Cap’s been great as a coach, a friend, and mentor,” said Fields, who is 33 and in his 15th season with the Sox. “He had a really big impact on my life and we have a long standing friendship. I value my experience at English.”
Anthony De la Cruz and Kyle O’Connor spoke about their positive experience in the English baseball program.
“I learned a lot of baseball from coach Caponigro,” said O’Connor, who made a sensational diving catch in Sunday’s win over Manchester. I played at University of Southern Maine and I will be playing for Salem State next season. He’s just a great guy.”
Caponigro took the universal praise from his players in stride. One of his former Sox is Ben Bowden, who is now pitching in the Colorado Rockies organization.
“I have a great group of guys on this team,” said Caponigro, who has led the ox to 13 NSBL championships. “They love to play baseball and we have a good ballclub. I’m going to coach the Sox until they kick me out. I can’t say enough about these kids. They’re men now. I’m going to their wedding and some of them are parents now.’’