2020 season a no-go for Cape Catfish

A Cape Catfish player takes a practice swing during a game against Quincy last season Capaha Field.
Southeast Missourian file

A year ago, the Cape Catfish orchestrated a “dream season” through its inaugural year as a franchise. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, 2020 has been more of a nightmare than any dream.

The Prospect League announced Friday that after initially postponing the 2020 season, the situation has reached the point that it is not feasible to operate this summer.

“After seven, eight weeks of optimism,” Catfish general manager Mark Hogan said, “we realized with a five-state league from Missouri all the way over to West Virginia, there were so many questions between each state and there are less answers within those five.”

The news was gut-wrenching to Hogan for several reasons, but mostly he felt for the athletes.

“We had guys commit to us from all over the country,” Hogan said. “We had 11 guys returning from last year, which is an extraordinary compliment to our fans, our host families, our sponsors, and the way we did things last year.

“Today they found out the hard way, with a cold email, that things weren’t going to work out. My sadness resolves around a 20-year-old, 21-year-old, a guy dreaming, who has worked his tail off and is having to pause like this.”

The 2019 season was a storybook tale in which the Catfish tied a league record for victories and won the West Division title before falling 2-1 in the championship series to Chillicothe.

The organization was magnificent on the field, and one could argue it was even better off it.

The franchise was run by “Cape people,” according to Hogan, and the group shared a vision to deliver a top-notch product to this community.

“It was amazing,” Hogan said. “We were in awe of it ourselves. But when you have the background of (assistant general manager) Cindy Gannon… an organizer supreme. You start with that and then the leadership of (president) Jim Limbaugh, who has been through every facet of local sports, and then also understanding the heartbeat of Cape.”

As good as 2019 was, Hogan said the organization had visions of building on that this summer.

Hogan had 11 players returning from that Division title-winning club, including Prospect League Player of the Year outfielder Andrew Stone, and he had accentuated those players with a ton of talent that even surprised Hogan a bit.

“We were super happy with the guys,” Hogan said of the returning players. “They were basically calling us in the fall. It was awesome.”

One of those returning players was former Scott City High School, Three Rivers College, and current Southeast Missouri State pitcher Braden Cox.

Few players enjoyed competing at Capaha Park last summer as much as Cox did, who got to perform in front of family and friends.

“This is definitely a tough pill to swallow,” Cox said of the canceled season. “The first thing that goes through my mind is all of the memories that I’m not going to get to make.”

Cox appeared in 17 games last summer and through 33 innings. He was 4-1 and struck out 28 batters.

“I guess this is for the best,” Cox said of the health concerns. “But obviously, we want to play baseball.”

Both Hogan and Cox already have turned their thoughts to the 2021 season and Hogan said returning guys such Cox will be welcomed back next spring.

“Everybody that we had signed is getting their (college) year back,” Hogan explained of the canceled NCAA spring. “Any player that wants to come back and join us, they’ll be our first pick.”

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