Caden Bogenpohl’s 14 home runs is the most for a Missouri State freshman since Ryan Howard hit 19 in 1999 and Jason Hart had 15 in 1996. Both of those players went on to reach the major leagues. (Photo by Missouri State University Athletics)

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The first thing that stands out when Caden Bogenpohl introduces himself is how big this young fellow is. Bogenpohl, who turned 19 a few weeks ago, is 6-foot-6 and 230 pounds with a Herculean-handshake to match. 

Even with a recent slump on the latest of what seems like dozens of grueling Missouri State road trips this baseball season, Bogenpohl’s rookie statistics stand as tall and wide as his physique. 

Caden Bogenpohl's slugging start matches some of Missouri State's all time greats

Entering a weekend Missouri Valley Conference series against Murray State at Hammons Field, Bogenpohl’s 14 home runs are among the most among freshmen in NCAA Division I baseball. Along with sophomore Zack Stewart, who has 18 home runs, Bogenpohl is part of a duo worth seeing as the Bears’ season home schedule winds down.

When you ask Bogenpohl what it’s like to have statistics that either match or exceed past Missouri State freshman sluggers — we’re talking eventual big leaguers Ryan Howard, Jason Hart and Jake Burger — he shrugs and looks to change the subject.

“I try to stay out of all that stuff, but it’s kind of hard,” Bogenpohl said of the comparisons, before a recent home practice. “I just try to show up to the field and do the same thing every day.”

Missouri State University baseball at Hammons Field

Friday, May 3 - 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. vs. Murray State

Saturday, May 4 - 2 p.m. vs. Murray State

Bogenpohl ranks second nationally among freshmen with 40 walks and is fifth with 14 home runs. Of Missouri State rookies, only Howard with 19 home runs in 1999 and Hart with 15 in 1996 had more home runs.

The power numbers look great, but it hasn’t been a totally smooth introduction to college baseball for the Jackson High School graduate. Entering this weekend’s series, Bogenpohl looks break free from an 0-for-21 slump. Yet he tries to roll with the flow and stay on an even keel in a game where even the best hitters fail at least 60 percent of the time.

It’s a good approach if he can pull it off.

“He’s the same guy, every day,” Bears associate head coach Joey Hawkins said. “That’s hard to do when you’re young, at this level.”

‘I came here to compete'

Even with a recent slump lowering his batting average to .258, Caden Bogenpohl said he tries to stay on an even keel. He called his freshman season “a lot of ups and downs so far.” (Photo by Missouri State University Athletics)

Bogenpohl, one of the biggest center fielders in Division I baseball, said his season has been a lot like the Bears’ ride. Missouri State is 18-26 overall and 7-11 in the Missouri Valley Conference, far from what anyone had envisioned during Keith Guttin’s 42nd and final season as head coach

“A lot of ups and downs so far,” Bogenpohl said of his season. “I’m just getting more comfortable with college pitching and everything. The pitching has been pretty tough, facing all those big-time schools.”

No offense to his opponents a year ago in the SEMO Conference, but Bogenpohl came out swinging early in the season against some big-time arms from programs like Southern Mississippi, Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Ole Miss.

“It’s what I came here to do,” Bogenpohl said. “I came here to compete and it’s been great so far.”

‘Joey Bunts' instrumental in Missouri State landing a slugger

Amazingly, Missouri State didn’t have to beat out power-conference schools to get a commitment from Bogenpohl. He was not heavily recruiting and said that Hawkins showed him recruiting love from the beginning.

“I had a little interest from other schools, but ‘Hawk’ here at Missouri State was the biggest one,” Bogenpohl said. “I really loved what they had going on here, so I decided to commit here.

Missouri State associate head coach Joey Hawkins said the Bears were able to get a commitment from Caden Bogenpohl during his junior year at Jackson High School. “The commitment from both sides, him to us and us to him, was really strong both ways,” Hawkins said. (Photo by Missouri State University Athletics)

“He was very transparent,” Bogenpohl said of Hawkins’ approach. “I loved what he was saying. I came on a visit and came to a couple of camps. I loved the coaches. I talked to some players and they said they loved it here. I thought it was a good fit for me.”

Hawkins said identifying Bogenpohl’s potential early and building a relationship were key factors.

“When we recruited him, there were a few schools in there but we for sure probably painted the best picture for his future and what we thought he could be,” Hawkins said. “The commitment from both sides, him to us and us to him, was really strong both ways.

“We were lucky to grab him early,” Hawkins added. “The year after he committed, going into his senior year, he took a big jump. I think people realized he was going to be really special. He comes from a good family and a good high school program and travel program. Recruiting is all about relationships, with the people around the player and the player himself. He and I had a really, really good relationship.”

Bears fans hope Caden Bogenpohl sticks around for 2025

Caden Bogenpohl has drawn 40 walks, second in school history for a Missouri State freshman, to keep his on-base percentage at .418. (Photo by Missouri State University Athletics)

There doesn’t seem to be a major worry about Bogenpohl entering the transfer portal, as often happens in basketball and football when young players blossom and look for higher-profile college homes. Missouri State has shown, with six first-round draft picks and 21 future big-leaguers in Guttin’s tenure, that it’s a good training ground for pro ball.

Getting the season turned around in time for a Valley Tournament run in a couple of weeks is the immediate priority. Bogenpohl will continue to adjust and learn. One of those learning moments was a rather memorable one.

After blasting a long home run in the final game of a home series against Illinois-Chicago, Bogenpohl flipped his bat in celebration. The home-plate umpire, deciding it showed up the opponent, tossed him from the game.

That carried an automatic suspension in the next game, a few days later against Missouri in front of the season’s largest crowd at Hammons Field.

“In the moment, I was pretty mad at myself,” Bogenpohl said. “I wanted to stay in that game and help my team win, but at the end of the day it is what it is and I had to wear that game against Mizzou. It definitely won’t happen again.”

Lyndal Scranton

Lyndal Scranton is a Springfield native who has covered sports in the Ozarks for more than 35 years, witnessing nearly every big sports moment in the region during the last 50 years. The Missouri Sports Hall of Famer, Springfield Area Sports Hall of Famer and live-fire cooking enthusiast also serves as PR Director for Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Missouri and is co-host of the Tailgate Guys BBQ Podcast. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @LyndalScranton. More by Lyndal Scranton