Love of the game

Craig Scarpelli

PHOTO courtesy of craig scarpelli

While many baseball players give up on their dreams after high school or college, Craig Scarpelli has kept his alive well past that point. At age 50, the pitcher and left-fielder has managed the Butte Sabres Baseball Club for 14 years and has played baseball in every corner of Northern California. The Sabres are a traveling team composed mostly of players from the Chico area interested in consistent and competitive baseball. As a political science professor at Chico State, Scarpelli is free to set up an 80-game summertime schedule more rigorous than many college baseball programs.

How did the club get started?

Years ago, while I was umpiring, I knew I wanted to play again. So I signed up with a local team that had about 16 guys, and I think I got one at-bat. I thought, “Maybe I’ll just do something else.” My wife suggested I get my own team together, but I didn’t know enough guys. I did know a guy that played on a semi-pro team called the Chico Bandits, and he didn’t like the manager. He approached me after one of his games and offered to pick up some guys for a new team, and we talked about it for about two hours out in the parking lot. That was the summer of ’97.

When did the Sabres start traveling?

That first year, we went out there and won the CARD league. Nobody expected it, but it jacked everyone up. I mean, we were just a group of guys. Some of use knew each other, some of us didn’t, but we got along real well. So they wanted to put a travel team together the next year, and we were able to schedule 45 games. It just took off from there.

How did you come up with the name?

As far as the name goes, all I cared about was doing something a little different. I’ve always liked hockey, and especially the Buffalo Sabres, with their sword and everything. So I figured no one would have that name for a baseball team. After 14 years now, if somebody associated with Northern California baseball mentions the Sabres, everyone knows it’s our team, and I like it that way.

How long will you keep playing?

It’s just one of those things. I feel it every game I’m out there; I’m so fortunate that the team has been able to stay together as long as it has. I should be playing golf at my age. The day will come when my body will tell me I can’t play anymore, and that’s fine.