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Springfield Capitals

First season: 1996

Years in league: 1996-2001

Ballpark: Lanphier Ballpark, 1996-2001

Springfield, Illinois has a long history of minor-league baseball dating back to the 1880s. As recently as 1981, Lanphier Ballpark hosted the St. Louis Cardinals AAA affiliate. After the Springfield Redbirds left for Louisville, the city hosted a Class A Midwest League team until the Sultans of Springfield left for Lansing, Michigan. Following the 1995 season the Portsmouth (Ohio) Explorers took advantage of an empty ballpark in a larger city and became the Springfield Capitals.

Success was immediate as the Capitals won the Frontier League championship in 1996 under the leadership of Mal Fichman. It was the third consecutive FL championship for Fichman, with his third different team. The Capitals would win again in 1998 behind FL Most Valuable Pitcher Jason Simontacchi, becoming the first FL team to win two championships.

Despite the team's success on the field, fans never did warm up to the Capitals. Lanphier Ballpark is in an older section of Springfield that many residents refused to enter, preferring to hope for a new ballpark in suburban Springfield. In addition, the park dates to 1923 and needs some modernization to attract fans. That has not happened, and the Capitals left for Rockford following the 2001 season. Lanphier Ballpark will likely never see professional baseball again, but in now home to the Springfield College in Illinois Bulldogs.

Lanphier Ballpark, built in 1923, home of the Springfield Capitals

Year   Won   Lost   GB   Finish   Attendance   Manager   Playoffs First Round   Playoffs Second Round
                                 
1996   21   16   ---   1W   47,854   Mal Fichman   Beat Richmond 2-1   Beat Chillicothe 2-0
    18   19   6   2W                
1997   25   15   3   2W   44,219   Mal Fichman        
    17   22   12   3W                
1998   21   16   1   3W   52,889   Mal Fichman   Beat Evansville 2-1   Beat Chillicothe 2-1
    27   13   ---   1W                
1999   39   45   4   5W(T)   53,503   Paul Fletcher        
2000   37   46   9.5   5W   43,340   Don Herron        
2001   45   39   3   3W   35,424   Dick Schofield        

Major Award Winners: 1998 Jason Simontacchi, Most Valuable Pitcher

Capitals Post-Season All-Stars:

1996 C Jorge Melendez

1997 OF Joe Ronca

1998 C Pat Evans, P Jason Simontacchi, P Sean House

1999 OF Steve Barningham

2000 2B Billy Bone

Players on FL Tenth Anniversary All-Star Team:

OF Darren Bush (1997-98)

OF Joe Ronca (1997-98)

OF Mark Soto (1996)

P Jason Simontacchi (1998)

Franchise Player: P Tony Harden spent three years (1999-2001) with the Capitals after one season in Richmond, where he went 10-1 and led the Frontier League with a 2.36 ERA. He won 25 games in his career, one of the top totals. He is also among the career leaders in innings, starts, and strikeouts. In addition, in 2000 Harden tied the single-season league record of nine complete games.

Capitals in the majors:

P Jason Simontacchi (1998) played for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2002-2003.

P Matt Duff (1997) played for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2002.

Pitching coach Wayne Rosenthal (1996) held the same position with the 2003 World Series champion Florida Marlins.