BY JEFF FALK
ANNVILLE – Wow! Watch out when these two get together.
Terry Lehman and Mike Capriotti have been colleagues, molders of men and good friends for years. But they have also been co-coaches and assistant coaches for one other.
A lot of people know Lehman was Capriotti’s JV coach for 26 springs. But did you know that Capriotti once served as Lehman’s assistant coach?
Yet while they have a lot in common, one would be hard-pressed to find two personalities more dissimilar. Kind of the way football and baseball are different.
So it is quite fitting and very appropriate that the long-time Annville-Cleona coaches will be entering the central chapter of the Pennsylvania Hall of Fame on the same night, together.
Lehman and Capriotti’s inductions will be the highlight of a November 13th evening at the Lebanon Quality Inn that will feature a very heavy Little Dutchmen flavor. In addition toasting Capriotti and Lehman, the local chapter will also honor 2017 Annville-Cleona graduates Reagan Hess and Cameron Hoch as the C.S. ‘Pop’ Kelchner award winners, given annually to the top female and male scholastic student-athletes locally.
As if that weren’t enough, on the same Monday evening, current Annville-Cleona athletic director Tommy Long, who holds the Lebanon County record for football rushing yardage in a career, and former Little Dutchmen and Cedar Crest football coach Dennis Tulli will also be inducted. The 2017 class, the central chapter’s 47th, will also include former Cedar Crest wrestling coach Steve Lebo, current Elco athletic director Doug Bohannon and Hershey Bears vice president of hockey operations Bryan Helmer.
“He was a big part of that state championship year,” said Capriotti of Lehman. “He was the calm and I was the storm. Back in the day, we didn’t have an adult as the first base coach. I’d only get him when his (JV) games were over.
“I was fiery,” Capriotti continued. “But the older I got, I became less intense. I just loved the kids. They were neat kids. It was about life. You carry those things over. But I didn’t need to do much with the kids on the varsity level, because he did such a good job of developing them. I didn’t want to teach fundamentals. I wanted to teach philosophy.”
“I didn’t know who else was being inducted for a long time,” said Lehman. “I got another phone call and I asked who else was going in. It does make it special going in with Cap. Did they just want to get us both out of the way at one time? It’s neat. Tommy Long is going in as an athlete and the two kids (Hess and Hoch) are Pop Kelchner award winners.
“Maybe that’s (their differences) why we got along,” Lehman continued. “I thought I was a disciplinarian in both sports, but I approached them differently. As I got older, I resorted to my baseball mentality more. But I had great assistants, guys like Frank Hetrick, Fred Goudy and Mike Miller.”
Lehman and Capriotti will forever be linked to a magical spring in 1986, when Annville-Cleona won the first of two state championships that Lebanon County has earned in baseball. Gavin Osteen and Capriotti might have done the heavy lifting, but all the contributions – some of which came from unexpected sources – was what made it special.
“I didn’t know it until I got a letter. I was actually thinking about having him as one of my guests,” said Capriotti of being inducted with Lehman. “He’s a no-nonsense type of guy. You do what he says or you don’t play, but he’s like-able. When you played Annville-Cleona in football, you knew you were in for a game. He was a jokester and he kept things loose.
“It’s an honor to be inducted into the central chapter,” added Capriotti. “It’s a very humbling phone call to get. I’m looking forward to that night, having my family and friends as my guests. I wish I had more minutes to talk, because I have a lot to say.”
“The kids loved him,” said Lehman of Capriotti. “He coached winning teams, and everybody wants to play for winners. The majority of his teams were winners, but I’m sure he made decisions people didn’t like.
“I helped Jack Bicher coach baseball at the Myerstown legion,” Lehman added. “Baseball was really fun. We had a ball. We had some really nice JV teams to go with the varsity. One time I had a shortstop, a freshman, and I told Cappy ‘You’ve got to take him up.’ We convinced him and he took him, and he played shortstop till his senior year.”
Lehman retired from coaching and teaching in 2014, after heading the Annville-Cleona football program for 28 years. Under Lehman, the Little Dutchmen won the Lancaster-Lebanon Section Three championships in 2000 and 2004, and qualified for the District Three postseason four times.
“I miss parts of coaching,” said Lehman. “I don’t have to put on a false front any more. I didn’t know how nice the weather in the fall is. And the one thing in baseball I didn’t like were the indoor practices.
“I remember practices,” Lehman continued. “It’s funny, because as high school assistant coaches, we were always having fun. I always tried to have fun. I tried to make it fun until it was time to be serious.”
A bit of a ‘pot-stirrer’, Lehman introduced the color black at Annville-Cleona High School, the idea of game film exchange to Lancaster-Lebanon League football coaches and the concept of hosting student-athletes as part of an ongoing co-op with Lebanon Catholic. But perhaps the thing he is most proud of is the fact that three current head football coaches – Matt Gingrich at Annville-Cleona, Rob Wildasin at Cedar Crest and Dave Gingrich at Cocalico – played under him.
“I’m as competitive as the next person, maybe even more,” said Lehman. “You’ve got to like to see kids have success. In football, we went into games knowing we had a chance to win. We were a small school playing a lot of bigger schools.
“I do care how I’m remembered,” continued Lehman. “Look at it this way: If you practice a whole year and have a 4-6 record, five percent of the kids are going to be pissed off at you. You’ve got to know it’s part of the game. It really doesn’t matter how many people are upset at you. If you feel good about yourself, so be it.”
Capriotti headed the Little Dutchmen baseball program for 31 seasons, before retiring in 2012. During that time, Annville-Cleona compiled an overall record of 345-328-2, won four Lancaster-Lebanon Section Three titles and qualified for the District Three playoffs 17 times.
“The kids, when I see them now as adults, they still call me ‘Coach’,” said Capriotti. “They do the same thing with Terry. That’s respect. That’s not saying every boy I coached liked me. I miss the kid contact and I miss my coaches. But it’s funny I’m going in the same time as Terry.”
Always out-spoken and opinionated, at heart, Capriotti is a people person. He coached for the love of the game, to fan his competitive fire and most of all to affect the lives of young men.
But he put into coaching as much as he got out of it.
“Yes, I miss coaching baseball,” said Capriotti, 61. “But if someone asked me to come back, I’d say ‘no’. I’m in another chapter of my life. I loved games. That’s when it was time to coach, really coach – strategically, philosophically, situation-ally. But sometimes the weather was not enjoyable.
“I don’t care how I will be remembered, but I do,” Capriotti added. “I hope I had an impact on at least one player’s life. The people who care are the ones who will talk to you about the past. You’re not loved by everyone, that’s the way it is. I just like to think I touched some lives.”
To obtain tickets for the induction ceremony contact Barry Heckard at 529 South 12th Street, Lebanon, PA 17042, or call 717-273-4744 or 717-304-8461, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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