By Ignacio Laguarda
The New York Mets third basemen David Wright was great friends with Sabia '00 and posed with the seniors of this years' team and Coach Boen
STAMFORD — Chris Sabia's former college baseball coach Pat Boen keeps a letter from his past player in his desk drawer.
On the letter, emblazoned with Stamford American Legion Baseball letterhead, reads a short message: "Get some pizza for my boys."
At the time, Sabia — who pitched for Stonehill College in the 1990s — was undergoing treatment for lung cancer, but he wasn't going to let that thwart his habit of buying dinner for his alma mater's baseball team.
The letter was written on March 30, 2017 and was accompanied by a $100 check. About three months after the letter was sent, Sabia died at the age of 39.
For Boen, the letter is a reminder of Sabia's impact on Stonehill, its baseball program, and a symbol of the man he remembers: thoughtful, caring, and selfless.
"People were drawn to him because he really cared about others," Boen said.
On Saturday, people who knew, admired and loved Sabia converged on Cove Island Park for a Wiffle ball tournament in his name. The gathering was arranged by Sabia's family, friends, and staffers at Stamford Legion, where Sabia - known to most as "Sabes -" was a baseball executive, coach and player for over two decades.
Lynne Colatrella, Sabia's aunt, said her nephew transformed the Legion program, virtually building it from scratch.
"Chris took this program from the ashes and built it right up," she said. "The program was nonexistent when Chris was a youngster playing ball in Stamford."
Last year, the Senior American Legion team won a state championship for the first time, after losing the two previous championship series. Sabia passed away just over a month before the team won the ultimate prize.
On Saturday, Sabia's impact was on display, as friends and family got together to honor his legacy.
New York Mets star David Wright, a longtime friend of Sabia, was in attendance along with Mets bullpen catcher and Stamford resident Dave Racaniello, one of Sabia's best friends.
During the 2015 World Series, Wright held up a "Stand Up to Cancer" card with Sabia's name on it during a break in Game 3.
Racaniello said Sabia was closer than a brother to him. They met when they were about 12 or 13 years old and stayed friends ever since, playing on a variety of baseball teams together.
"He made a tremendous impact on so many Stamford baseball players' lives," said Racaniello. "If you know Sabes, he always put his heart and soul into everything he tackled."
Boen brought about 20 Stonehill players to play in the Wiffle ball tournament on Saturday.
"He was the ultimate teammate," said Boen, remembering Sabia's time on the Stonehill team.
He remembered an instance during tryouts, where two freshman pitchers were turning heads.
The Skyhawks separated into teams and battled others on wiffle ball fields, all to raise money for Stamford Legion Baseball (PHOTO COURTESY: Chris Tufano)
Sabia, who was already on the team, told him, "If you need to cut me to keep those two, you should," Boen said.
Another example: Boen remembers driving to the baseball field early one morning after a rainy day and seeing Sabia getting the field ready for practice that day.
"He cared more about the team," he said. "He cared more about them than his own personal success."
Sabia used that same mentality to build up Legion baseball, creating a pipeline from the Stamford league into colleges and tournaments that would give the players more visibility.
The goal of the tournament on Saturday, besides honoring Sabia, was to raise scholarships funds for underprivileged baseball players in the greater Stamford community.
Mark Leinweaver, a former teammate of Sabia at Stonehill and one of his friends, traveled from California to be at the tournament on Saturday.
Leinweaver, an agent for Major League Baseball players, said the event gave loved ones the opportunity to relish in Sabia's impact on the community.
"[It] has far more to do with remembering and celebrating the person, and not letting him be forgotten," he said.
This was originally published on the Swampscott Advocate and can be found at: https://www.stamfordadvocate.com/local/article/Tournament-celebrates-Sabia-s-baseball-legacy-13214771.php#photo-16136233
Chris Sabia Wiffle Ball Tournament Sept. 8, 2018