Chico Heat rekindled for 2016 season

Chico Heat co-owners Pat Gillick, left, and Steve Nettleton, center, with Heat mascot Heater the Dragon. Photo credit: Chico Heat

Chico Heat co-owners Pat Gillick, left, and Steve Nettleton, center, with Heat mascot Heater the Dragon. Photo credit: Chico Heat

The five-year wait for summer baseball is almost over as the Chico Heat get ready to take to the field, with their first game on June 3 at Colusa Casino Stadium.

The Heat, a semi-pro team, burned out in 2002 after their league collapsed. In 2005, the Outlaws took over, but disbanded six years later due to problems in management.

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The Orion was there to cover when the Heat first went under in 2002. Photo credit: The Orion


Chico has been without summer baseball since 2011, which is far too long according to Assistant General Manager Sandra Swanstrom.

“Chico loves baseball. People enjoyed going to games, and people are getting excited to return to that,” Swanstrom said.

Chico’s love of baseball inspired the resurrection of the Heat, and minor changes in the organization are set to prevent it from dying out. One of the changes is the utilization of host families to support the players.

Players are recruited from across the nation and are provided with a personal room, a feature which can help players feel more at ease during the season. Host families are granted free season tickets and receive 50 percent off concessions in return for their generosity.

While some changes have been made, the team has kept key parts of the program to maintain the persona of the original Heat. The Heat’s mascot will be Heater the Dragon, and the team will still use Nettleton Stadium as their home field.

Team owner Steve Nettleton watches his team from behind the plate in 2002. Photo credit: The Orion


The team gives collegiate players the chance to be scouted and additional experience by playing with people who they have never faced. The league allows Division I and II schools to be recruited, intermingling them.

With players from both levels, it gives lower division players a chance to compete against athletes at a higher caliber. The experience gained by the recruits is a key part in the program, according to Swanstrom.

“They get to come out and improve on their skills and get coached in a different way. It’s an opportunity to get better for the players who are serious about going to the next level,” Swanstrom said.

Former player Ray Brown watches a pitch go by during the 2002 season for the Chico Heat. Photo credit: The Orion


The Heat will now be part of the Great West League, along with the Lodi Cruisers, Marysville Gold Sox, Medford Rogues, Portland Pickles and the Sacramento Stealth. While there are six teams established in the league, there is hope to induct two more teams if the league is successful.

General Manager Hunter Hampton believes potential and talent are the most important determining factors in the scouting process.

“We don’t look at averages or statistics, we look at the potential that the kids have and how they can help the team,” Hampton said.

The team has already sold out the majority of the seats behind home plate and expect a massive turnout for their first home game against the Marysville Gold Sox. They will play on June 4, at Nettleton Stadium in the second game of a three-game series.

Hampton has high hopes for the team and believes that the Heat will keep summer baseball in Chico for years to come.

“Hopefully it will be here for 10, 15 or 20 years,” Hampton said. “But I know that we can sustain it.”

Kenta McAfee can be reached at [email protected] or @KentaMcafee on Twitter.