Douglas Neighbor Newspaper: Service to country bigger draw than baseball for Douglas academy appointee
Tristan Capocci likely was looking at a chance to play professional or college baseball after his recent high school graduation — except for another opportunity he believed had a greater purpose.
Capocci, 18, accepted both an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy and an offer to play baseball for the Annapolis, Maryland, military institution.
The Villa Rica resident also will be committed to a five-year stint in the Navy after graduation — something most high school athletes avoid because they would rather try to begin careers as a pro athlete after high school or college, Capocci said.
“Many people, especially athletes, are put off by the service part,” he said. “Even if I wasn’t playing, I would want to go there.”
Capocci is scheduled to leave late this month for Annapolis to begin the mandatory “Plebe Summer” training program required of all incoming freshmen. The rigorous program is designed to teach the incoming student to “appreciate the importance of mental, moral, and physical toughness,” according to the Naval Academy web site.
“It’s not demoralizing,” Capocci said. “It’s just part of the tradition. You make of it what you want.”
He said freshmen must go through the six-week program without a phone or watch.
“You have no concept of time,” he said.
A native of Bradenton, Florida, he is the son of Matt and Marisol Capocci and brother of Faith, 11, and Francesco, 13.
The recent Alexander High School graduate decided to travel this road toward a unique college education after a 2013 trip to Florida where he wore the country’s colors as a member of the USA Baseball National Development team.
“That was very special for me,” he said. “It was the opportunity to play for my country.”
He continued to feel that way throughout high school as he played in the famed East Cobb summer baseball leagues and starred for his high school teams at Alexander and The Heritage School in Newnan, Capocci said.
“The military is something that had always stuck out for me,” he said. “It was so perfect for me and my situation.”
The process of enrolling in any federal service academy begins with a nomination from a member of Congress. Capocci received that honor from District 13 U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Jonesboro, whose district includes Douglas County.
Capocci then was among only eight out of 29 nominated by Scott in the six-county district to receive full offers of appointment to a service academy.
He said he learned of his appointment on an infamous naval anniversary — Dec. 7, 2016, which was the 75th anniversary of the 1941 Japanese attack on the American fleet in Hawaii that led the U.S. to enter World War II.
A major reason Capocci wanted to go to Annapolis was the chance to attend such a prestigious educational institution, which heavily considers a nominee’s academic record for admittance.
“It’s not an opportunity available to all,” Capocci said.
The academy has produced such graduates as former President Jimmy Carter and U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona; and athletes like pro basketball Hall of Famer David Robinson and NFL Hall of Famer Roger Staubach, who won the Heisman Trophy as a quarterback for Navy.
Another reason Capocci decided to commit to a military enlistment was his upbringing in a Christian home where he grew up learning to have “a servant heart,” he said.
“I feel it was a path I was being led to,” Capocci said. “Trust in the lord at all times.”
His work away from school and baseball also helped win over those who appointed him. He went on mission trips to Puerto Rico and was a member of a youth leadership team at his church. He also was a member of the Key Club and Outdoor Club in high school.
He also earned 28 hours of college credit at the University of West Georgia in the Move On When Ready dual enrollment program at Alexander, where he starred as an infielder on the school’s Region 5-6A championship baseball team which advanced to the quarterfinals of the state championship tournament.