Capuano's boyhood dream becomes reality
Massachusetts native excited, looking forward to pitching for hometown Sox
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- In 1996, as an 18-year-old senior for Cathedral High School of West Springfield, Mass., Chris Capuano stood proudly on the mound at Fenway Park.
Pitching for a group of Massachusetts All-Stars against the best high schoolers from Connecticut, Capuano could feel his dream getting closer.
It has been just less than 18 years since that excitement-filled afternoon and Capuano still doesn't know what it feels like to pitch a Major League game at Fenway Park.
But on Saturday, he finally seemed close to realizing that goal, as his one-year contract with the Red Sox became official.
After passing a physical, Capuano participated in Boston's full Spring Training workout.
"We've been getting a lot of phone calls, a lot of texts and emails -- just so much support back home," said Capuano. "My wife's family is from Grafton, Mass., outside of Worcester. It really is going to be like coming home for us."
In a solid career that even included a trip to the All-Star Game as a member of the Brewers in 2006, pitching at Fenway is one of the few things that the lefty still hasn't done.
"I'm excited," said Capuano. "It's one of the only stadiums I haven't pitched in yet. I'm glad in Spring Training here there's a replica so I'll get used to it."
As the 35-year-old Capuano spoke to the media, his childhood came racing back to him.
"I was 8 years old in '86 when they lost to the Mets. I can remember being devastated as a kid," Capuano said. "I grew up watching the Sox and really following them. When I was out in the backyard playing Wiffle Ball with my friends, we'd always imagine ourselves on the mound at Fenway, so it's kind of cool to come back and maybe have a chance to be there."
At this time last week, Capuano was still out of work, but confident he would hook on somewhere. When Ryan Dempster announced he wouldn't pitch in 2014, Capuano suddenly had a golden opportunity to land in Boston as depth in both the rotation and the bullpen.
Right now, there are no rotation spots available for Capuano and he projects to be in the bullpen.
But Capuano saw last year with the Dodgers how quickly an opportunity can arise.
"Last year, we were in a situation with the Dodgers where we had eight good starting pitchers coming out of Spring Training," said Capuano. "It wasn't long before I got a chance to start there. Once you sign for a team and you're there, you do what the manager asks of you and you do it to the best of your abilities. So I'm ready to contribute any way I can."
Both when he was coming out of high school and college, Capuano doesn't remember the Red Sox showing much interest in him.
Capuano would pitch for the D-backs, Brewers, Mets and Dodgers before finally landing in the American League on Saturday, and with the Red Sox no less.
Late in the 2011 season, Capuano almost had a unique opportunity -- to pitch on a one-day contract with the Red Sox in a one-game playoff against the Rays at Tropicana Field.
But the Red Sox never were able to agree with the Mets on the non-waiver deal, and their historic collapse left them one win short of qualifying for that one-game playoff.
"It was an exciting possibility. [The Mets] actually knew about it earlier but kind of waited till the last minute to tell me so it wouldn't be a distraction or anything when I was pitching for the Mets," said Capuano. "I didn't have a whole lot of time to think about it. It was just a couple-day conversation that didn't end up happening, but I was excited at the prospect of pitching for the Red Sox."
Now it appears it will finally happen, and Capuano looks forward to helping manager John Farrell in any way he's needed.
"I had a conversation with [pitching coach] Juan [Nieves] today," said Capuano. "He laid out about the next 10 days of throwing for me. That's going to involve a couple of bullpen sessions and maybe a live batting practice session on Thursday before I'll be in my first game. I believe I'll be starting that game, but the sense I get is they're going to want to extend me and build up my innings to go either way."