Vinny Capra made a combined 61 starts at short between Vancouver and Lansing in 2018.
The latest guest on C’s Chat is 2018 Lansing Lugnuts and 2018 Vancouver Canadians shortstop Vinny Capra.
The 22 year-old Melbourne, Florida native was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 20th round of this year’s draft from the University of Richmond.
“I was watching the draft with my parents and we were really excited about where I’m going to go so it was obviously a surprise when I got the call. We were very excited, I got up and hugged my parents and the next step of my career is now with the Blue Jays.I was real excited with that. It was awesome. There was nothing better than seeing your name getting called and especially by the Blue Jays. What a great organization to be with. It’s really a great start to what my baseball career is going to be.
The Blue Jays were in contact but I had a couple of other teams who were talking to me but I didn’t really know exactly which team I was going to. When the Blue Jays called, I was like, ‘Yeah, definitely. Take me.’ Doug Witt was my area scout. He did a great job with helping me out and giving me all the directions I need to once I got drafted.”
College Years & Summer Ball
Capra played for the Richmond Spiders during his junior and seasons seasons. He showed his gritty style of play by reaching base five times without a hit in the first two games of the season. With the Spiders, Capra batted .335 with an OPS of . 870 during his two years in Virginia. Those numbers helped him earn Atlantic 10 Second Team honours in 2017 and 2018. Capra says he enjoyed his time in the state of Virginia.
“I loved it. The baseball up there was great. The weather was great most of the time. A little bit of snow which was not too bad, I got around that. There was some cold games which prepared for anything. Playing here in Vancouver, we got great weather also. It’s hot but it’s not humid. Playing in Richmond, it was a great experience for me and I loved it.”
Capra transferred to Richmond after playing at two seasons at the junior college level with Eastern Florida State. He was named to the FCSAA Southern Conference Second Team in 2015 before earning First Team honours in 2016. One thing Capra noticed about junior college was the amount of roster turnover that took place.
“The biggest difference was the team quality of baseball. Junior college, you have two years so you got guys coming in and out every time. Once I got to a four-year school, there were more developed relationships with the team or chemistry involved so that was a little bit of a change. Junior college ball was also a great step for me before going to a four-year college.”
Before coming to Vancouver, Capra got a taste of the everyday grind of baseball by spending the summer of 2017 with the Walla Walla Sweets of the West Coast League. It also introduced him to playing baseball in British Columbia.
“That was actually my first summer ball experience so I have nothing to compare it to but it was a lot of fun coming out to the west coast, the complete opposite side of the country I’ve never been on.It was a great experience like besides baseball, to experience a lot of different places playing in Oregon and even coming up to Kelowna and Victoria and Canada. That was just a great experience. It kind of prepared me getting through the border process and everything so I’m already used to that.”
Something else Capra was introduced to with Walla Walla was dealing with customs officials at the U.S./Canada border.
“They usually do a pretty good job at getting us in. They obviously have to take their own measures in letting us in but they usually do a pretty good job with us and get us through there quick because sometimes it’s really early in the morning. All of us are tired strolling off the bus just after a long road trip but they understand. They help us out a lot all they can.”
High School Years
Before college, Capra helped lead Melbourne Central Catholic to the 2013 Florida 3A State Championship. Also on the team was his twin brother Nick and his older brother John.
“I transferred to Melbourne Central Catholic my junior year so that was the first year we won state. I remember thinking we had these guys that just brought us right in, me and my brothers, we were accepted real quick and we just had great team chemistry and that kind of took us to where we needed to go.”
Capra says having two brothers on the same team kept him on his toes.
“We always pushed for each other to get better but we also competed against each other as brothers would. If one person is doing better than the other, you’re always pushing for him to get back up and pull him from where he’s at and vice versa. You’re alway pushing and pulling each other to get better everyday.”
Capra says his senior year at high school saw him change middle infield positions.
“I was actually a second baseman in high school and I switched to shortstop in my senior year and from then on out, I’ve been playing shortstop.
The coaches I’ve had have been great along the way. My high school coach was great at getting me to have the right footwork to be at shortstop, transferring from second base. Once I was good enough to get to junior college, he helped me out with the footwork and it’s always been about the footwork over there at shortstop. That’s the key for your rhythm and to be able to complete plays at a consistent level.”
Capra says a former Blue Jay was one of the coaches who helped him develop as a shortstop.
“Tom Dooley was the first (coach) to get me to play shortstop and he helped me out with learning the position and everything that went along with it. (Blue Jays 2003 pitcher) Jeff Tam was my junior college coach and he helped me kind of smooth out any kinks to really get me where I need to be an elite shortstop.”
Vinny Capra had 84 assists and helped turn 13 double plays for Vancouver in 2018.
Capra believes he has been able to make the necessary adjustments playing at the six-spot at the pro level.
“The transition’s pretty easy. It’s kind of the same game from all the way up and fielding position-wise. You get maybe some harder balls hit at you but other than that, you’re doing the same thing. You’re trying to keep your rhythm and just be a consistent fielder.
I’d say my forehand is my best quality. I’m much better at going to my left so that leaves my backhand as probably what I have to work on mostly.”
Capra has had a number of different partners at second base in Vancouver as Nick Podkul, Sterling Guzman and Brandon Polizzi have spent time at the keystone. He admits it can be a challenge at times.
“Yeah, but you take ground balls with them during practice so you understand how each one, the pace of each player’s work. When you’re throwing out there. you try and play at the same level, the same pace, the same chemistry and you get to know them a lot better when you’re playing every day with them.”
One aspect Capra likes about at Nat Bailey Stadium is getting to play on natural grass again.
“In college, I played on a turf field (Malcolm U. Pitt Field in Richmond) so we went to a lot of other turf fields and you get a feel for how each one plays. Going to Everett and Eugene, both of those (fields) were pretty similar to some of the other places I’ve played so it was pretty easy to adjust on that.
I like playing natural grass. I like playing on the dirt of the grass field. It just feels more natural and right for the game.”
Vinny Capra had a line drive rate of nearly 28 percent with Vancouver and Lansing in 2018 according to FanGraphs.
Playing In Vancouver
Capra says he enjoyed his role of being the mostly-everyday shortstop with Vancouver.
“I’ve loved it. I can’t ask for anything more to be mostly starting every game here and batting in the top of the order and get things going for the team. I love getting things going and everybody following suit. It kind of gets the team rolling early when you get on base early. It doesn’t matter how you get on base but once you get on base, your team starts rolling early in the games.
Playing at Nat Bailey Stadium is just awesome. The fans get behind you for everything. If you make a mistake, they’re picking you up from the stands like, ‘It’s alright. You’re doing fine.’ They just help support you and they just want to see you get better.”
The 5-foot-8 Capra says he tries to get underneath the skin of opposing teams with his unrelenting play.
“I’d be the player that’s annoying the other team, trying to get on base, steal bags, making all the plays that normally wouldn’t be made. Kind of the annoying player on the opposing team that you’re just like, ‘Man, he does everything. He gets everything. He hits everything. Just keeps hitting balls in play.”
Capra batted just .125 in his first eight games as a professional but he got on base at least once by a hit or a walk in his first 20 games.
Capra hit his first professional home run in Spokane June 24 and picked up his second against Hillsboro July 19. Capra was promoted to the Lansing Lugnuts August 3. Capra had an on-base percentage of .344 with two home runs and 18 runs batted in and eight stolen bases in 10 tries with Vancouver at the time of his call-up.
Capra saw his batting average jump 31 points after joining Lansing as he hit .266 in his 25-game trial. He enjoyed his first three-hit night with the Lugnuts August 25 and that was part of a seven-game hit streak.
Capra got the starting assignment for both of Lansing’s playoff games where he went 2-for-7 but the Lugnuts were swept by the Bowling Green Hot Rods.
As far as what 2019 holds, Capra may very well return to Lansing for his first extended taste of full-season ball.
My thanks to Vinny Capra for taking part in the latest episode of C’s Chat and to Media Relations Assistant Sharlene Canning for arranging the interview.