Steve Nettleton, best remembered in baseball as the majority owner of the Chico Heat, died Friday afternoon at the age of 79. The reported cause of death was complications from Parkinson’s disease.
With a business background that included the launch of grocery stores Shop ‘N Save and Food-4-Less, Nettleton made his mark in the baseball world as the owner of the Chico Heat. The first incarnation of the Heat launched in 1997 as a member of the independent Western Baseball League and continued play through 2002, the circuit’s final season. Another version of the Heat launched years later with Nettleton as an equity partner, playing the 2016-2018 seasons in the summer-collegiate Great West League.
Along with establishing and later helping to re-establish the Heat, Nettleton will always be remembered for the donation that he and his wife Kathy made to bring new life to the former Bohler Field–which was renamed Nettleton Stadium in their honor. More from the Chico Enterprise-Record:
Shortly after selling his interest in Food-4-Less, Nettleton and his wife Kathy donated more than $2 million to rehabilitate Chico State University’s Bohler Field, turning the 1950s-era baseball diamond into a modern, 4,100-seat stadium that they donated to the university when it was completed in 1997. The school responded by renaming it Nettleton Stadium in the couple’s honor.
That was when Nettleton, along with friends and collaborators [longtime friend and colleague Jeff] Kragel, Robert Hart and Bob Linscheid, got together and formed the foundation for a venture that would make good use of the brand new stadium.
That’s how the Chico Heat was born. The first iteration of the team would go on to win a league championship in its inaugural 1997 season, and aimed to bring the nostalgia and family-friendly entertainment of minor league baseball to Chico.
“It was the Nettleton magic that made it so special,” said Kragel of his friend. “He had a knack for how to serve the public, and no one has been able to recreate it.”
Nettleton was survived by his wife.