| March 20, 2021
The Solano Mudcats are new to the California Collegiate League, but that has not stopped the organization from making an impact both on the diamond and in the community.
Located between San Francisco and Sacramento, Solano County is home to a bustling hotbed of baseball talent. The Mudcats are helping establish a rising trend in collegiate level play as well. Thanks to co-founder Shawn Scibek and president Ben Crombie, the Mudcats have found the perfect blend between player development and promoting the game to younger generations, all while encapsulating the “small-town” feel of Solano County.
“We bring high-quality summer baseball in a family friendly environment, and we pride ourselves in developing successful young men on and off the field of play,” Crombie said.
Since joining the CCL in 2019, the Mudcats have started to solidify their presence as a premier summer ball organization in Northern California, and according to Scibek and Crombie, the team is only getting started.
To really understand and appreciate the Mudcats, a dive into their storied history is a must. In 1990, Scibek, along with George Sebena, and Jed Czajkowski, launched the organization as a semi-professional wood-bat team. For 22 years, the Mudcats enjoyed plenty of success on the road throughout the West Coast, establishing themselves as one of the top semi-professional clubs in the state.
Fast forward to 2012, the Mudcats decided it was time for a change of scenery. They rebranded the club as a collegiate summer organization and began recruiting the best talent in the region. In these early years after the transition, the majority of the Mudcats' roster consisted of players from Vacaville, Fairfield, Vallejo, Davis, Napa, and other communities surrounding Solano County. Most players were on college rosters at the time, but different than most teams on their schedule who recruited from a larger pool of players around the nation and more recognizable schools. Still, the Mudcats found success, with a record of 140-108 from 2013-2018.
The mid-2010s Mudcat teams seemed to benefit from a close-knit culture developed by Scibek, Crombie and the rest of the organization. With several established collegiate teams on their schedule, this culture helped spur confidence to go along with a chip on their shoulders. The Mudcats became known for their hard-nosed play on the field with a relaxed, with a fun-loving atmosphere off the field.
Solano spent two seasons in the Sacramento Rural League from 2013-2014 before electing to become an independent collegiate team. After three seasons as an independent organization, the Mudcats joined the Bay Area Collegiate League for the 2018 season. While their tenure in the BACL was short-lived, they were triumphant in their return to league play and took home the league championship that summer.
In 2019, the Mudcats joined an expansion of the CCL, and expanded recruiting to some of the top baseball programs in the state and around the country. Players have ranged from local NCAA Division I schools like Cal, U.C. Davis, Sacramento State and San Jose State, while out-of-state additions have hailed from programs such as the University of Minnesota and Holy Cross University in Massachusetts.
As the Mudcats enter the 2021 season, the organization is embracing their new identity in the CCL and are hoping to break onto the scene as one of the state’s top summer collegiate programs. They hope to do so while also still serving their community.
The Mudcats double as a 501(c) non-profit organization, something that Crombie emphasizes is an integral part of the organization.
“We’re in it to provide a quality organization for young men to play for, and this allows us to partner with and give back to our local community.”
The Mudcats community service events range from partnering with local first responders and attending local banquets and events, to providing opportunities for college students to earn required internship credits for their respective education programs. The Mudcats offer internship programs for athletic training, game-day operations and sports marketing. Solano also offers ample community service hours from high school students and has partnered with local high schools in the county. They also regularly partner with local small businesses for advertising and promotion purposes.
Their most notable liaison in the community comes from the effort the organization puts into youth baseball around the county. Solano holds two youth camps, one in the summer and one in the winter, both providing opportunities for children of all ages and backgrounds to work on their skills.
Guest speakers from all levels of baseball offer further insight to the local youth. Previous guest speakers include Solano County products such as former Major Leaguer and current manager of the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers Kristopher Negron, and 2020 World Series champion Tony Gonsolin of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Both Scibek and Crombie are hopeful the camps will continue to build fan interest in the Mudcats, but more importantly, continue to promote the game of baseball in Solano County for the younger generations.
“It’s all about passing on the fun of this great game of baseball,” Scibek said. “I enjoy seeing the kids who have attended the camp continue to play and progress in the community. For some, it’s their first time ever playing baseball. It’s great to see the smile on his or her face when they succeed in a drill or game.”
Crombie, who is in his second stint as the Mudcats’ head coach, has been with the organization since he played for the team in 2004. He makes a great pair with Scibek, as the two combine for a characteristic blend of production, performance and play. As both the president and head coach, Crombie is plenty used to a full plate. He pairs well with the easy-going Scibek, who also serves as an assistant coach.
“Our league is competitive and we want competition for the guys,” Scibek said. “But (in the summer) they get to come out and…get to relax a little bit where they can just kind of be their own person.
“I just think it's a nice place in the summer where they can come in and just play.”
After nearly two decades of friendship, it’s clear the bond between the two helps the organization thrive. And while they might differ in personalities and coaching style, they share the same vision for their organization. Some long-term goals, such as potentially building a new playing stadium in the county, are a few years out, Crombie and Scibek are currently focusing on building a stronger fanbase and alumni connection.
“My hope in terms of experience that they have, is that they enjoy themselves, play good competitive baseball, and then come back to the alumni events in the future,” Crombie said. “Some of the relationships that they make in the two months they keep forever.”
The cancelation of the 2020 CCL season due to COVID-19 brought along its own unique set of challenges, Crombie and Scibek are optimistic they can continue building upon the growing fanbase in Solano County. The Mudcats already have a charity golf tournament, an annual alumni game and plenty of community service projects in the works.
As Crombie, Scibek and the rest of the Solano Mudcats board continue to push through plans of a potential new stadium in the upcoming years, the Mudcats will continue to upkeep their stellar reputation on the diamond and in the county. Baseball in Solano County is continually uprising, and the Mudcats are bringing a new brand of baseball to the region.
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