Devotion to men’s fastpitch ushers Bob Chapel into the NAFA Hall of Fame

Written by Bob on August 11th, 2016

“I just keep going because I love it.” – Bob Chapel

chapel.nafa.web
Bob Chapel puts the radar gun on the pitchers at the 2010 NAFA World Series. Photo By BOB OTTO

BAKERSFIELD, CALIF – When it comes to job security, Bob Chapel knows he’s safe. Knows that few, if any, will rush forward eager to take his place running men’s fastpitch tournaments in northern and central California.

Since 1982, the 69-year-old has been a tournament director. Starting in March, Chapel’s weekends are spent on softball fields in Bakersfield, Stockton, Sonora or Reno running tournaments. Over 150 and climbing, he figures, in those 31 years.

Back in 1982 when he directed his very first tournament – an ASA event – 32 teams were entered. It wasn’t all that difficult finding teams since the sport was booming in California’s central valley. The scene has changed over the years with far fewer teams playing the sport.

But that doesn’t stop him from fighting to keep the sport alive in his part of the country. Why does he carry on when so many of his generation have left fastpitch in the rearview mirror?

“I do it because I love doing it,” said Chapel, who splits time between homes in Bakersfield and Billings, Montana. “The guys keep asking me back. And who is going to take over if I step away?”

However, Chapel does more for fastpitch than run tournaments.

    MAN OF MANY HATS

He has served as president of the West Coast Fastpitch Association and Northern California Director for the North American Fastpitch Association (NAFA), an organization he has committed to since 2002.

No one appreciates Chapel’s commitment to NAFA than executive director Benjie Hedgecock.

“Bob is a great asset to men’s fastpitch and to NAFA,” said Hedgecock. “His love for the game and his passion for fielding strong teams and running quality events drives him. He truly cares about the game and the people who play it.”

    ENTERING THE HALLOWED HALL

And because of his devotion to men’s fastpitch, because of his unfailing drive year-after-year to perpetuate the sport in California and throughout the country, Chapel will be inducted into the NAFA Hall of Fame during ceremonies at the 2016 World Series in Carson City, Sept 16-18.

“I am honored to be inducted into the Hall of Fame,” said Chapel. “It is a lifetime of devotion to the game of softball that leads up to this honor. As I look back I have seen all the great players, sponsors and coaches that have been inducted before me.

“Without my wife’s help, friends and family I could not have done it,” Chapel added. “Thanks to Benji and the NAFA board for allowing me to be involved with this great organization.”

Though he’s grateful and happy to receive the honor, he’s not taking his award and riding off into the sunset. He plans on attending as many NAFA, Masters and World Series events as possible.

Pitcher, Simeon Brewer, has known Chapel since the 1960s. Brewer praises Chapel for being a great supporter of men’s fastpitch; a man with a deep commitment for keeping the sport alive in central and northern California.

“No one in my opinion loves the game more or has contributed to the game of fastpitch more than Bob Chapel,” said Brewer. “Without the Bob Chapels, this game would have decreased even more.”

However, before there was Chapel the tournament director, sponsor, manager, and president, there was Chapel the ball player. He played all positions, starting as a 19-year-old catcher in 1965. Four years later he started his own team. Then in 1970 he decided to take up pitching.

    A CHUCKER IS BORN

“I got serious about it,” he said, “and I practiced during my lunchtime at work and I had a block cinder wall where I paced off 46-feet and would throw, throw, throw.”

He developed a good mix of pitches – change up, curve ball, riser and drop – through hours of practice.

“I practiced to get good control by (hitting) the corners up and down, in and out,” he said. “Many of the young guys today don’t have the work ethic to become good pitchers.”

Chapel’s been around long enough to recall the golden days of fastpitch in Bakersfield.

“There was a real rich tradition in Bakersfield,” he said. “We had about 120 teams with five of them Open (division) back in the 1970s.”

    BAKERSFIELD A FASTPITCH HOTBED

He recalls the great Ed Smith Welding team, Dave Frye Plastering, Hudson Supply, Lowder Electric, Martin’s Market…and all the great players and pitchers who wore the uniforms of those dominating ball clubs.

“There’s so many,” he says. “Cecil Sizemore was a real good pitcher, and there was Andy Anderson, Rick Francis, Bob Cravens, Simeon Brewer, Terry Leach, Dennis Parks…”

And he recalls the International Softball Congress (ISC) holding its World Tournament in Bakersfield where in 1979 Ed Smith Welding finished third, and in 1983 the Lancaster (Calif) Chameleons won the crown.

He also witnessed an influx of foreign pitching talent, as some of the greatest pitchers in the history of the sport came from New Zealand to Bakersfield to make their mark on the United States fastpitch scene.

    KIWIS LAND IN BAKERSFIELD

“I remember a young Peter Meredith, and Paul Magan, (Steve) Schultz, Michael White, and Peter Brown from Canada,” he said. “A lot of them came to Bakersfield first before moving on. They were the best in the world.”

While most of his generation has long left the game, Chapel continues on, and not without some struggle. In 1994 he had a heart attack that required triple bypass surgery. And on late Sunday afternoons of a long weekend tournament, his back and knees commence to be stiff and sore; he sometimes thinks the golf course might be a more pleasurable alternative.

But its’ a fleeting fancy. Given a few days rest, he’s ready to resume serving fastpitch.

“I just keep going because I love it,” he says. “And I’ve loved meeting all the people who also love softball.”

7 Comments so far ↓

  1. Claudean Chapel says:

    Thanks for honoring Bob and his hard work to keep fast pitch softball alive with this article. He has spent more than 50 years loving softball and wants more than anything to develop new pitchers who love the game as much as he does. Thanks from his family who love him and know how hard he works for fast pitch softball.

  2. Bob says:

    Thank you Claudean. I enjoyed talking with Bob and writing the story. You and the family have every right to feel proud of Bob and his accomplishments for fastpitch softball. He’s one of the game’s best.

  3. Joe Avila says:

    Brings back some old memories for me, In 1970 the world tourney(ISC) was held in Kerman Calif. and Ed Smith Welding beat us in the State Tourney to qualify and knock us out of the world, being held in our back yard, that was the only year that the team Herman Duinkerken and I and Ray Unruh played for did not qualify for the World! for the next 5 yrs Clovis Cowboys Dominated central California and in the ISC World- 72 (5th) 73 (2nd) 74 (3rd) 75 (5th) and it would almost always boil down to Bakersfield, RKT, and Clovis(us) in the finals of the State

  4. Bob says:

    Good to hear from you Joe. Thanks for making such an interesting comment. California had some great teams and players back in the day!

  5. My Father” Bob Chapel” has always been my hero on and off the Field, I grew up at the ballparks in Kern County and later worked long hours beside my Dad. I don’t think a lot of the players realized how much time he spent dragging the fields cleaning the dugouts and bathrooms as well as the bleachers and under them. He never did things half way. I loved working tourneys it was a challenge being a young lady out there and Dad always made sure I was taken care of, we watched Great ball and have a load of memories and laughs…so THANKS Dad for your love and dedication to the sport of Fastpitch!!!

  6. My Dad” Bob Chapel” has always been my hero on and off the field, I grew up at the ballparks of Kern County and later worked along side him putting on the league and Tournaments. One thing that wasn’t mentioned was Bob was President of Kern County Softball Assoc. for many years and so it wasn’t just weekends he put in, Bob would leave work and go straight to the fields and get the ready for league play the assoc folded after Dad got sick, and Bakersfield has never had the same momentum since. I don’t think most of the players realized how much Dad put into it we constantly were cleaning fields, dugouts, bleachers top and bottom, and even the restrooms despite them being county and city parks, he never put on an event half way. It wasn’t easy being a young lady helping run a mens assoc. but Dad always took great care of me. We have a lifetime full of memories and laughs, THANKS DAD for all you’ve done and are doing to promote Fastpitch.

  7. Bob says:

    Terrific tribute to your Dad, Melissa. I am sure that he is very proud of you too. Thanks for sharing about your Dad being President of the Kern County Softball Association. I didn’t know that. I’m sure that many would agree with you that he is a true devotee and outstanding contributor to the sport.

Leave a Comment