By Thomas Zinzarella ’21
While many 18-year-olds look forward to their freshman year at college, Zach Kapstein ’22SCE had something else on his mind: baseball. After being drafted in the 44th round of the 2010 MLB Draft by the Boston Red Sox, Kapstein opted to sign with Boston in pursuit of his childhood dream of one day playing in the major leagues.
“I went from my high school graduation from small town Tiverton, RI to six days later in Fort Myers, FL sharing a hotel room with the Red Sox 1st overall pick in 2006.”
It is a road that not many baseball players get the pleasure to venture down, so Kapstein jumped at the opportunity to play. “Our goal was to get drafted and get a shot in the minor leagues,” Kapstein said. Less than six percent of high school baseball players get the opportunity to play college baseball and only half a percent of high school players will eventually get drafted by a major league baseball team.
For Kapstein, it all started after playing in the Area Code Underclass Games the summer leading into his senior year of high school. The Area Code Games are an exclusive showcase that draws in the top 225+ high school players in the country. Major Leaguers like Bryce Harper, Clayton Kershaw, and Giancarlo Stanton have taken the field in this prestigious event.
During that summer, Kapstein competed against six future Major Leaguers including Kris Bryant, Christian Yelich, Dylan Bundy, Joc Pederson, Kevin Gausman, and Archie Bradley. At the games, scouts from all 30 MLB teams are present, as well as scouts from some of the top colleges in the country.
Following the event, Kapstein received some college interest from powerhouse programs like the University of Southern California, the University of Texas, and fellow Big East foe at the time, West Virginia University.
After being drafted in June and signing a minor league contract with the Red Sox, he was assigned to their Rookie League affiliate level in the Gulf Coast League. Kapstein would spend 2010 and 2011 in the area before being promoted back to the New York-Penn League and the Lowell Spinners. Injuries shortened some of Kapstein’s minor league seasons. Life as a catcher is never easy. As he rose up to the full season single-A affiliates, he transitioned to the outfield. Kapstein reached as high as A+ with the Salem Red Sox, before being traded in 2015 to the Baltimore Orioles.
In the Minors, Kapstein was teammates with big league club players on assignment like Daniel Nava, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Stephen Drew. One story he always gets asked about is the time he spent with former Red Sox and current Los Angeles Dodgers superstar outfielder Mookie Betts in the Minors.
After Betts was drafted in 2011, Kapstein and he were teammates in Fort Myers that summer and fall during instructional league. They spent time together in extended spring training in 2012 before both were assigned with the Lowell Spinners the following summer.
Betts struggled initially in the Minors. Alex Spier, a Boston Globe sportswriter, in his book Homegrown, talks about how Betts almost quit baseball entirely. Kapstein had a front row seat to Betts make the big adjustments in 2012. “That summer every ball he hit was hit hard…it was a complete 180 from the summer before,” Kapstein revealed. “He just flipped a switch…we kept saying to ourselves, this kid is going to be in the Major Leagues in two years.”
After one year playing in the Orioles organization, Kapstein signed a minor league contract with the Chicago White Sox. He began to think that it may be time to hang up the cleats. Kapstein was offered a coaching position inside the White Sox organization and accepted it. He spent two seasons with the Great Falls Voyagers and Kannapolis Cannon Ballers, the Rookie League and Single-A affiliate of the White Sox respectively..
When asked about his time playing and coaching, Kapstein responded: “I saw a lot of America in which I wouldn’t have seen…you really saw a lot of the fabric and the core of America. With me loving history, being a history major now…I saw a lot of the Mid-Atlantic area that played a huge part in the Civil War… I got to see Gettysburg when I was with the Orioles.” He also added that it was “interesting to see places I had seen on a map or read about in history and to drive through them.”
When he figured it was time to go back to school, all Kapstein could envision was majoring in history. Sure enough, he is now a history major at PC’s School of Continuing Education.
Coming in, Kapstein was always fascinated with the history of the U.S., but especially the Civil War and the American Revolution. He has family members who fought in the Vietnam War, World War II, and even World War I. One of his favorite classes he is taking right now is a class on the history of the Holocaust.
He is not the only Kapstein connection to baseball and PC, however. His uncle Jeremy Kapstein was one of the first player agents and played a pivotal role in abolishing the reserve clause and creating free agency in baseball. As an agent he represented players that included Hall of Famers Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, and Carlton Fisk, among many others. “He got his start at PC,” Kapstein stated. As a student at Hope High School in Providence, Jeremy was able to work the Providence College Men’s Basketball games by keeping track of the stats during the games.
After graduation, Kapstein either wants to get back into coaching at the college or professional level or use his history degree in a more traditional way. Kapstein has thought about teaching history and coaching football and baseball at the prep school or the high school level.
Today, besides going to school, Kapstein still gives advice to high school athletes who are in the same boat as he was almost a decade before. “It was definitely a learning experience. It has you grow up very fast and makes you more mature,” Kapstein stated. “You don’t have anyone saying you have to be up at 7 a.m., you got to do this class, you’ve got to be in the cage. It’s all on you. It makes you very punctual, very responsible, and professional.”
If Kapstein does become a history teacher, he will have to get used to the routine of going not into the batting cage this time, but rather, into the classroom.