After 14 seasons, Joe Caponigro has stepped down as the baseball coach at English.
By STEVE KRAUSE
LYNN — After 14 seasons, during which time two of his players signed professional contracts, Joe Caponigro has stepped down as the English High baseball coach.
Caponigro, who lives in Swampscott, took over the baseball program in 2004 upon the departure of Ron Bennett. During his tenure, he coached Robert Reyes, who later signed a contract with the Red Sox organization, and Ben Bowden, a left-handed pitcher who was drafted in the first round last year by the Colorado Rockies organization.
He said the decision to step away from the job came down to timing and personal reasons.
“A good coach knows when it’s time,” said Caponigro. “And it was my time to give this up.”
Knowing it might be time to go doesn’t necessarily make it easier, though.
“This is the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make in my life,” said Caponigro, “because I’ve invested 14 years of my heart and soul into the program, and into the kids. I’ve made some tremendous friends. They used to be players. Now they’re friends. It’s just hard to walk away. And for the kids who are still with the program, it’s going to be hard to leave them.”
Prior to coaching at English, Caponigro, who works for Panakio Adjusters in downtown Lynn, was active with the North Shore Baseball League, and he still manages the Swampscott Sox. Many of his former English players returned to play for him with the Sox.
“I love coaching,” said Caponigro, whose daughter, Jaymie, was a soccer and girls basketball player at Swampscott High. “It’s in my DNA. I tell my wife all the time you can’t rub the spots off a leopard.
“I resigned on Tuesday, and Wednesday and Thursday I was out coaching the Sox. I love baseball, and I love coaching baseball.”
Caponigro is particularly proud of the number of his former players who have come back to contribute to the program.
“A lot of my players come back and coach,” he said. “I always like to have that family type of atmosphere, where they’re always welcome back. They come back officially as coaches, and some come back unofficially when they can help out.”
Caponigro said he’d like to be remembered at English as a coach who was a straight shooter and was a positive role model for teenagers.
“I always wore my heart on my sleeve,” he said. “No bull. And I tried to live by the integrity I have … being a positive role model for these kids. I’ve always tried to set a good example.”
The English administration knew what it had in Caponigro.
“Joe had a great 14 years here,” said athletic director Dick Newton. “We’re sad to see him leave. The kids connected with him. He did a great job while he was here.”
Newton said Caponigro always represented the school with class and dignity.
“Always in a positive way,” he said. “He did everything, as an administrator, that you want coaches to do.”
“Joe was a great guy, that’s for sure,” said English principal Tom Strangie.
Caponigro said he always appreciated the support he got from the administration.
“Mr. (Andy) Fila (former principal) and Mr. (Gary) Molea (former AD) gave me a chance and I’ll be forever grateful for that,” Caponigro said. “And Mr. Strangie and Mr. Newton have continued giving me that support. It was my privilege to coach at English.”