Always a Yellowjacket

Always a Yellowjacket

Baseball team rallies to honor one of its own

Dave Capucilli ’99

Dave Capucilli ’99 loved baseball. He played as a young boy, throughout high school, and then as second baseman for the Yellowjackets. He was the heartbeat of the University’s baseball team from 1995 to 1999, say his teammates who played alongside him for four years.

“Our team wasn’t the strongest to start,” says Ryan Donahue ’99. “On the plus side, that meant a lot of us got playing time. If we’d been a bit better that wouldn’t have been the case.”

As a team, they got better. By their second year together, the team was winning half its games. By their junior and senior year, the men won their conference, which would not happen again until 2019. “It was an amazing time in our lives,” adds Donahue.

After graduation, teammates Donahue and Capucilli lived together in Queens. Donahue had a job in finance and Capucilli went to law school. “We started our lives together.” In the summer of 2013, Capucilli was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that develops in the bone marrow. He passed away in 2013, just one month after diagnosis and four months after getting married to the love of his life, Kristin Kolich.

To honor Capucilli, his former teammates purchased a locker in his memory, in the baseball locker room in the Boehning Varsity House (see below).

“Dave touched all of our lives—none of us will ever forget him and how nice, humble, and extremely funny he was,” says Donahue. Dave’s obituary echoes this, with words felt by all who knew him: “Dave did not just live his life . . . he embraced it with contagious enthusiasm as evidenced by his large circle of true friends. When you were with Dave, he made you feel like you were the most important person in the world.”

When Donahue asked his teammates and their coach, Bob Hartz ’90, ’98S (MBA), to help fund the locker, everyone jumped in. “Within minutes of reaching out via text and email, people were donating,” he says. “What we’ve done is really a small drop in the ocean, but it’s something.”

Capucilli’s parents and his younger brother, Matt, are grateful that Dave’s memory is honored in this way, in a place on the River Campus where Dave formed many friendships. “We were overwhelmed and overjoyed when Ryan and our other “sons”—that’s how we think of them—presented us with a photo of the locker and the plaque inside it,” says his mother, Jo Anne, who the team calls Mrs. Caps. “It is an amazing tribute.”

Kolich is touched, too, as baseball meant so much to her husband. “When I want to understand Dave’s lifelong love of baseball, I think about his favorite film, The Natural,” she says. “It beautifully weaves together a story of an imperfect yet finally heroic character and America’s love of baseball. In many ways the film exemplifies the way that Dave lived his life—with courage, tenacity, and love.”

Capucilli’s friends and family also remember him at a memorial golf tournament held each September in his hometown of Baldwinsville, New York, just outside of Syracuse. Proceeds support the Capucilli Baldwinsville Community Scholarship Fund, which has provided scholarships to two qualified local high school students each year since 2013.

“Dave was a kind and intelligent child who grew to be an example to everyone he ever met,” adds Dave’s father, Dennis, known to the team as Mr. Caps. “I think about how he graduated 20 years ago and that we lost him in 2013, six years ago. His lasting impact on so many people is amazing to me, even after this much time.”

“The fact that his teammates did this for him is an example of their connection to each other and Dave’s effect on them,” says Mr. Caps. “My family is grateful that they, along with so many others, still revere his memory and hold him deep in their hearts.”

A close-up view of the plaque inside the locker that honors Dave Capucilli

Go Gooch!

It took just one game for the team to adopt a family nickname for their pal, Dave. That’s when they heard Dave’s mom shout out, “Go Gooch!” It was a childhood nickname adopted by the team and then forever used in college. “We started calling him “Gooch” and “Davey Gooch” when he was a baby,” says Mrs. Caps. “I was a loud and proud mom, so it’s no wonder the boys ran with it.”

The Foursome

Gooch wasn’t the only one with a nickname—everyone on the team had one. Donahue was known as Maestro, a self-anointed moniker that gives a nod to a favorite Seinfeld episode. Two buddies had aptly selected names, too. Bryan Hollihan ’99 was called Sticks, because he wore number 11, and Lindsay Parker ’99 was coined Tedward, because he looked like a combination of television news anchor Ted Koppel and Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy.

Field Clean Up

After every home game, the team would be tasked with field clean up. “Gooch always angled for a really good job, like driving the tractor to rake the infield. The whole team would actually pick him up and throw him onto the tractor . . . gently, of course,” says Donahue. Mrs. Caps recounts how the boys would dance out on the field together, like Michael Jackson, to cover the mound during a rain delay. “They were so much fun to watch,” she says.

Traveling Men

“We had a lot of pre-game rituals when we traveled,” reflects Donahue. “We’d play euchre, share stories, and laugh together a lot.” Donahue and Capucilli would always bunk up, too. “Gooch would get the sheet and I’d take the comforter,” he adds. “It’s just what we always did. Those were good times that I’ll never forget.”

If you are interested in learning more about how to honor a loved one in a similar way, please contact Jared Longmore, Director of Advancement for Athletics and Student Life.

Kristine Thompson, September 2019