Slugger returns to Stengel

During his college baseball career, Chad Nacapoy has spent defensive innings shifting his weight between pitches in the outfield or taking in the action from the dugout as a designated hitter, but for the former Crescenta Valley High backstop, neither can compare to seeing the game from behind the mask.

For Nacapoy, it's about being in control, at the center of the action and visible to the people who matter most.

"I just like catching because I'm in the action every single play," says Nacapoy, a senior-to-be at Cal State Los Angeles and a current member of the California Collegiate League's Glendale Angelenos. "Plus, my dad always says, 'I like when you catch because when you're on TV, I can see you and watch you play.' That's always a plus."

Nacapoy's folks, and anyone else with access to the Fox Sports Network, will be able to get an eyeful of Nacapoy plying his trade behind the plate when he takes part in the third annual CCL All-Star game, which will be nationally televised live from Stengel Field beginning at 6 p.m. on Wednesday night.

Putting up solid offensive numbers and calling a good game from behind the dish in his second summer in the CCL, Nacapoy will be making his second appearance in the midsummer exhibition after playing in the game last year as a member of the MLB Academy Barons.

"He means a lot to the team, he's one of the most vocal leaders we have and we couldn't do it without him," Angelenos All-Star pitcher Thomas Korn says. "He's one of the biggest bats in our lineup. You can bet he's going to do some damage if you send him up to the plate."

In addition to Nacapoy's most ardent local supporters, it's a safe bet that plenty of scouting personnel from the professional ranks will be checking out Wednesday's game from the stands at Stengel and on TV. Showcasing his talent in one of the premier summer collegiate leagues in the country, along with having a solid senior year next spring with the Golden Eagles, is part of Nacapoy's plan to realize his lifelong baseball ambitions.

"That's my dream to play professional ball somewhere with a major league team," Nacapoy says.

Angelenos Coach Tony Riviera says a shot at the pros isn't out of Nacapoy's reach and that he's brought the dream closer to reality this summer by making necessary adjustments to his game, such as focusing this summer on driving the ball to the opposite field.

Always a consistent hitter, Nacapoy has been one of the Angelenos' top offensive producers with four home runs, 15 runs driven in run and five doubles, all second-best on the team, and he's batting at a .279 clip going into the break.

"We sat down and really talked at length about his goals and what it was going to take for him to get to professional baseball and I think he's made those adjustments," Riviera says. "I think that he's got the ability to play at the pro level. He's got an above-average arm with above-average power. He runs better than most catchers at the big league level.

"The tools are there. People are always going to look at the height and question that, but, to me, it takes a small axe to cut down a big tree and that guy's got more heart than most players I've coached."

At the same time that he's put up robust offensive numbers, Nacapoy has quickly taken charge of the pitching staff, which includes athletes from schools across California and the country.

"He really meets with the pitchers and talks with them about the game plan and he knows that I trust him with the game plan," Riviera says. "That's why he's had some really good success because he's been able to call his game, versus another college coach's game."

Catching also fits prominently into Nacapoy's plans to advance his career, as he figures his proficiency at the premium position can only add to his value as a prospect.

"Not many people want to be a catcher," Nacapoy says. "I think it's kind of an advantage. You're getting used to the background, the hitter's eye and the field when you're catching, then when you go up to hit you're already used to how the shadows are.

"You're just kind of in the game all the time. Catching, you've got to flush [everything else] out. You've got to think defense, put up a zero and get back in the dugout and start putting more runs on the board."

As a catcher, Nacapoy directs the action on the field and commands respect in the clubhouse, not only for his seniority in the CCL, but for his credentials as a Division I college player. He played well for two seasons at Brigham Young University before returning home in 2010 and putting up a .295 average with the Compton-based Barons, leading to a scholarship offer from CSLA.

"We really look up to him since he's one of the older guys," Angelenos pitcher and fellow All-Star Sean Wardour says. "In the hitting aspect of the game, guys can really look forward to learning from him a little bit."

Nacapoy played sparingly his first year at BYU, appearing in just 15 games, but learned the ropes of the college game and how to adjust to living far from home.

"At first, I was very uncomfortable with [being away from home]," Nacapoy says. "I just kind of grew up. It was hard at first, but then it became fun. We started traveling and the older guys kind of took me under their wing and showed me what to do."

Nacapoy really announced his presence the following year. As a sophomore, he batted .351 with five homers and 17 RBI and made just two errors all season.

"I had good success out there offensively," says Nacapoy, who also had the experience of helping the United States Youth National Team capture silver at the 2005 IBAF "AA" World Youth Championships in Monterrey, Mexico the summer between his sophomore and junior year at CV. "Honestly, I think it's just from our coaching at CV. We had pretty much a big league kind of program at CV, [Falcons] Coach [Phil] Torres ran a good ship and I had a lot of good training. I think it all started down at CV, where I could just pick up and go with the college game. And the coaches [at BYU] really helped me out and kind of groomed me to become the type of BYU player they wanted me to be."

Even after leaving BYU, Nacapoy carried the lessons learned with him to the Barons, where he joined the team midseason, but quickly proved his value. He was able to do the same in his first season at CSLA this year, leading the Golden Eagles in home runs (eight), runs scored (37) and stolen bases (nine in 10 attempts), while driving in 23 runs and slugging 12 doubles.

"It was my first time back with a full team practicing, I didn't have a fall," Nacapoy said. "I was still getting used to our pitching staff and our coach's philosophy of hitting and how to play the game his way.

"I was still adapting on the move during the season."

Seemingly adept at adapting wherever baseball takes him, Nacapoy hopes there's a few more twists and turns in the current path he's traveling, whether it's to another city, another league or whatever the next stop is along the way to his dream of playing in the pros.

For now, though, Nacapoy is enjoying being back in the familiar environment of where he grew up and first made a name for himself with the Falcons.

"I just wanted to be close to home," Nacapoy says. "Driving down to Compton every day is not exactly gas efficient and playing at Stengel, where I played high school ball, is kind of like playing at home.

"I didn't think I would be playing back on Stengel Field again, but I'm having fun with it."

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