Chico Baseball History
The Chico Heat started as a professional independent baseball team operating Western Baseball League in 1997. They were created by Chico Heat Professional Baseball LLC, with former supermarket entrepreneur Steve Nettleton and his wife Kathy serving as principal owners. General managers included Bob Linscheid (who would go to become president of the WBL) and Jeff Kragel. The team immediately won the league championship in their inaugural season and, although they did not win a championship in the four subsequent years, they won the most regular season games in each of the following seasons. They appeared in the championship series in five out of their six seasons in the league. In 2002, Chico won its second league championship in the league's and the team's final season.
Professional baseball returned to Chico in 2005 with the formation of the Chico Outlaws (owned by Diamond Sports & Entertainment). They opened their inaugural season of the Golden Baseball League on May 27, 2005, against the Flyers at Nettleton Stadium, bringing professional baseball back to Chico for the first time since the Chico Heat's 2002 championship campaign with the WBL. Their first manager was former Major League Baseball catcher Mark Parent, a native of Cottonwood, California. Bob Linscheid was named the league's first-ever "Executive of the Year."
Continuing the winning tradition in Chico, the Outlaws made the playoffs the first year but lost in the early rounds. In 2006 they were on the verge of winning the second half that would have put them in the Championship Series versus the Fullerton Flyers, but in an epic collapse they lost a 6 game lead with 10 games to play as they were beaten in 7 of their last 8 games by the Reno Silver Sox. The Silver Sox went on to win the 2006 GBL Championship defeating the Flyers 3 games to 1. It would take three years, but the Outlaws made it to their first GBL Championship Series in 2007 and beat the Long Beach Armada in four games, 3-1, to bring Chico their first professional championship since 2002. After winning the championship, Parent stepped down as manager and handed the reins over to former Heat player and Outlaws coach Jon Macalutas.
The Outlaws were one of six former GBL teams to join the newly formed North American League in 2010 and were led by another former major leaguer, Garry Templeton who guided the team to their best ever record as the squad won the South Division First Half title with a mark of 33-12. They went on to sweep defending Champion Calgary in the first round of the playoffs. That year, they signed 18-year-old female Japanese knuckleball pitcher Eri Yoshida, the first woman to play pro baseball in Japan to a contract. On June 24, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum was on-hand and after Yoshida's start presented her with a plaque and collected her jersey and bat for inclusion in Cooperstown.
Chico Outfielder Daniel Nava, who was the 2007 GBL Most Valuable Player, and had his contract purchased by the Boston Red Sox. On June 12, 2010 against the Philadelphia Phillies he was the first Chico Outlaw to make it to the Major Leagues and responded by becoming only the fourth player in major league history in hit a grand slam in his first at bat as he went deep to centerfield on the first pitch.
The Outlaws, along with the league, ceased operations in early 2012.
On November 25, 2014, Steve Nettleton, Baseball Hall of Famer Pat Gillick and Bill Yuill announced that the Chico Heat were back in business as a member of the summer collegiate wood bat league known as the Great West League. Hunter Hampton was named the team’s inaugural General Manager and quickly hired former Chico State University star baseball player Fred Ludweg as the manager. They began play on the road in a loss to the rival Marysville Gold Sox. The Heat defeated the Medford Rogues 2 games to 1 to capture the inaugural GWL Championship. It is the second time in franchise history that they won a championship in their first season. Stuart Bradley was named the league’s pitcher of the year and Ludwig was named the Manager Of The Year. Hampton was recognized as the leagues top executive as the Heat led the league in attendance.
On July 24, 2017 the Heat hosted the second annual GWL All-Star Game. In a unique format, the All-Star game saw the Heat team play an exhibition game against the All-Stars of the other GWL team. The Heat would return to the 2017 GWL championship but would lose in the finals to the Rogues.