When Jake Capko left Morris Community High School last year, he didn’t know exactly what his next year would be like.
Capko, the 2013 Morris Daily Herald All-Area and Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference East Player of the Year, played in 23 games for Illinois Wesleyan University this spring, starting in 19. After finishing up his season with the Titans, he joined the Lexington Snipes of the Midwest Collegiate Baseball League and made the league’s all-star team.
Capko went 2 for 2 with an RBI in his South team’s 10-3 win over North in the All-Star game at Oil City Stadium in Whiting, Indiana.
While the competition level has certainly stepped up a bit from his days as a member of the Redskins, Capko said he is making the adjustment. And the league he is playing in has certainly helped him in that regard.
“The competition I have been playing against is basically all Division I players,” he said. “I think on my roster at the All-Star game, there was one Division II player and another Division III player like me. The rest were all Division I.
“Seeing that type of competition every day will really help when I get back to school, and I am playing against all Division III players again.”
Capko began the season as Wesleyan’s starting catcher, but went in a slump and lost that spot. He got his starting job back for the last regular-season series and went 8 for 16 in three games against Elmhurst, but did not get an at-bat in the regional that Wesleyan was in. He finished the season with a .227 batting average with a double and four RBIs, while also owning a .975 fielding percentage. He was off to a strong start in the summer league, which resulted in his getting the All-Star nod.
“I was hitting around .300 when they named the All-Star team, so I made it,” Capko said. “Then I went in a 2-for-14 slump and my average has dropped. But I have been working on my swing with my dad [Ed], and the first game since we started working on it was the All-Star Game, and I went 2 for 2, so hopefully I will get back to hitting better.”
The Midwest Collegiate League does have a team in Joliet, the Admirals, but Capko, who majors in accounting at Illinois Wesleyan, preferred to play closer to where he goes to school.
“One of our assistant coaches at Wesleyan, Mike Brown, hooked me up with Billy DuBois, the general manager of the Lexington Snipes,” he said. “It worked out well to play for them, so that’s what I am doing.”
One of his teammates on the team is recent Minooka graduate Mitch Vogrin, who will pitch for Ilinois State next season.
“I had played three years with Mitch, catching him,” Capko said. “It was when we were 12 to 14 years old. I hadn’t played with him or against him since, so it was nice to hook up with him again. I have caught four of his starts so far this summer. We play against Illinois State during the season, and they like to throw freshmen against us, so maybe I wlll be able to face him as a hitter. I have never done that.”
Overall, Capko’s first year out of high school has been a memorable one, but he still remembers his alma mater fondly as well.
“Playing at Wesleyan and for the Snipes has been an awesome experience,” he said. “But when I come home and talk with my buddies from high school, we always talk about that last game we played. It was nine innings in the regional against LaSalle-Peru and I still remember every play. We all say, even though we lost, it was the most fun game we have ever played in.
“I am looking forward to getting back to school ball and using this experience I have had over the summer. When the lineups have good players one through nine, you have to be on top of your game calling pitches all the time. There isn’t like a bottom of the order where you can relax a little bit. They let me call the pitches, so that keeps my head in the game. Plus, when I am hitting, I can kind of think along with the pitcher and catcher and have an idea of what they are trying to do against me. I learned a lot this spring with our All-American pitcher, Jeff Johnson. That was a fun experience to catch a guy like that.”