COLUMN: Forget the final game, the Cape Catfish have been winners all season long

Spectators watch from the lawn during the Cape Catfish home opener in June at Capaha Field.
Tyler Graef ~ Southeast Missourian

For the thousands of baseball fans that sauntered into Capaha Field this summer to catch a Cape Catfish game (and maybe a foul ball, as well), the specialness of this team existing was in its providing a fun, family-friendly and cost-effective activity for all in southeast Missouri to enjoy without driving a long distance or spending a small fortune.

And make no mistake about it, providing such a situation was precisely why the Catfish leadership sought to invest their money (lots of it) and time (even more of it) into creating the franchise.

The Catfish lost Game 3 of the Prospect League Championship Series Tuesday to Chillicothe, which cost them the fairy-tale storyline of winning the league title in their initial season of existence, but the outcome of that singular moment should play zero role in assessing the degree of success of this year.

The 2019 Cape Catfish season was as big of a win as the sport has ever seen.

“Let’s hand it to the Cape Catfish for a fantastic season,” Prospect League commissioner Dennis Bastien told the crowd of nearly 1,000 fans following Tuesday’s game.

Bastien may have been referencing the magnitude of success that Cape achieved, as it tied the league record for victories (44) in a single-season. However, this franchise won in so many ways, some of which weren’t obvious to most.

For starters, spending a summer evening at the renovated Capaha Field is about as magnificent of a way to spend three hours as can be planned in these parts.

The improvements made to the historic facility are something that will benefit the city of Cape Girardeau, as well as all of the teams that utilize it.

“I’m really happy for my alma mater,” former Southeast Missouri State student-athlete and baseball coach Steve Bieser said Monday during Game 2 of the final series.

Bieser is now the coach at Missouri. He not only played for the Redhawks, but he spent six seasons (four as head coach) as a coach with the program.

“I saw many pictures (of Capaha Field) drawn up and looking like this,” Bieser said. “I just wasn’t fortunate enough to be here when it was done. We had it all in the works.”

Bieser was in attendance to watch Tiger sophomore-to-be Tommy Springer pitch for Cape, which pointed to another aspect of success achieved by the club.

The Cape players came here to get better and because of the coaching staff that Catfish general manager Mark Hogan assembled the players did exactly that.

“We want these players to go back to school with something new that they picked up this summer,” Cape manager Steve Larkin said recently. “The reason you play baseball everyday is that you get to improve on something that you need to work on.”

And according to Bieser, it is also to fail.

“This is a league that is really going to push our guys,” Bieser said. “When we send a player out, we want to push them to the max of their abilities. We hope that they have some success, but also we want to see them fail a little bit too.

“You learn a lot from failure.”

The overall experience that Springer had with the city, the team, the coaches and the fans was so overwhelmingly positive that Bieser said he wants to create a pipeline from Columbia to Cape each summer.

“Knowing the experience that Tommy had here,” Bieser said, “we want to make this (a regular thing). We are allowed to send four players to a roster and this looks like a good place for our guys to come and develop.

“We look forward to sending more players here.”

And people throughout the Bootheel “look forward” to coming out and watching them for many years to come.

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