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The moose days of summer

Irvine Valley College's Tony Cappuccilli earns his coaching chops in the Land of the Midnight Sun.

June 18, 2011|By Joe Haakenson, Daily Pilot

Baseball in Alaska seems to make as much sense as snowboarding in the Bahamas, but don't tell that to Tony Cappuccilli.

Cappuccilli is the head coach of the Anchorage Bucs, a collegiate summer league team that plays in the Alaska Baseball League, recognized as one of the top summer leagues in the country.

It's a summer job for Cappuccilli, who will return to Irvine after the season and resume his job as assistant baseball coach for Irvine Valley College. Cappuccilli, 30, just finished his second season at IVC and he plans to be there for a few more years, but he isn't the type to sit still for long.

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Cappuccilli is on a mission, and he's willing to travel the ends of the earth to reach his goals. Even this early in his journey, he's already traveled the world, so Alaska isn't such a big deal.

"If not for this team, I would never come to Alaska," Cappuccilli said during a rain delay from Mulcahy Stadium in Anchorage earlier this week. "Most of the players wouldn't either. Why would I come to Alaska?"

Cappuccilli is an Orange County boy, a former Edison High School standout catcher who broke the county career home run record in 1999 and still lives in Huntington Beach.

He went to the University of Nevada from 2000-03, highlighted by the 2002 season when he hit .357 with 10 homers and 27 RBIs. He was a pre-season All-Western Athletic Conference selection in 2003.

But after his collegiate career he was forced to take a detour. Cappuccilli, a burly 6-foot-2, 245 pounds, was hoping – expecting – to get drafted by a major league team, but the call never came.

"I had decent numbers, I thought I'd get drafted out of college," he said. "I thought I could hit well enough."

Cappuccilli wouldn't give up on reaching the big leagues, so he signed to play professionally for the Florence Freedom of the independent Frontier League.

That's Florence, Kentucky.

A month into the season, he blew out his shoulder, but once healed, he was back at it again. He played summer league ball in Seattle, hoping to get noticed, but it didn't happen.

"Ultimately I had to come to the realization that I was just not good enough," Cappuccilli said. "My dream was not going to happen.

Cappuccilli, though, wasn't about to give up baseball. He simply reprioritized. If he couldn't play baseball at the top level, maybe he could coach it.

"I didn't accomplish everything I wanted to accomplish as a player," he said. "I didn't make the big leagues. I was determined to make it in my coaching career."

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