RiverHawks’ pitcher feels at home

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Ex-Hononegah standout Brett Scarpetta pitches for the Rockford RiverHawks of the Frontier League. Scarpetta was drafted to the majors twice, but passed.

Staff photo by Marc Correnti

LOVES PARK, Ill. — Brett Scarpetta has never been a man with a plan.

But now he’s back in the place where Scarpetta and baseball are synonymous with each other.

He’s back home.

The 25-year-old 2004 Hononegah graduate is now a member of the Frontier League’s Rockford RiverHawks.

Scarpetta, who was slated to open the season out of the bullpen, made his fifth start Monday in the RiverHawks’ 10-6 win over the Joliet Slammers. He picked up the win, surrendering six runs in five innings as family members and Hononegah coach Matt Simpson looked on at Road Ranger Stadium.

He’s currently 2-1 with a 4.25 ERA in 36 innings pitched, recording 25 strikeouts and 20 walks.

While Scarpetta is back home, things could have gone differently for the right-hander. He was an ace for the Hononegah baseball team, compiling 150 strikeouts in 82 innings as a senior.

He was originally selected in the 18th round of the 2004 June Amateur Draft by the Chicago White Sox. But he bypassed the opportunity to follow in his family footsteps, turning the Sox down to attend Madison Area Technical College (MATC) on a baseball scholarship.

It was a big surprise considering his father and uncle both chose to sign pro contracts. Brett’s father Dennis made it to Class A ball and his uncle Dan eventually played in Triple A. Dan also pitched in a memorable game as a member of the Beloit Brewers in 1988, no-hitting the Rockford Expos for eight innings.

Even his cousin Cody Scarpetta was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 11th round of the 2007 amateur draft.

He surely wouldn’t turn down the chance again to get a shot at the majors — would he?

But he did. He was selected in the 38th round of the 2005 June Amateur Draft by the Atlanta Braves. But things didn’t work out and he returned to MATC. He pitched one year in Madison before transferring to Bellevue College in Nebraska.

He pitched the past three years for the Frontier League’s Southern Illinois Miners and won 25 games before being traded to the RiverHawks.

He’s also currently the pitching coach at Rock Valley College.

BDN: What’s it like to be back in front of your hometown fans?

Scarpetta: “It’s fun. I got a lot of family around here and a lot of people that have supported me throughout my career. To finally be able to come back and play where I’m at now — it’s just fun. There’s no other way I can describe it.”

BDN: Are you surprised that you ended back up in the Stateline?

Scarpetta: “You know, it does a little bit. I was at Southern for a while and I was never sure I’d get a chance to come back up here anymore. I’m enjoying it and trying to make the most of it.”

BDN: Things were going well in Southern Illinois to the point where you were starting to establishing yourself. Why did you want to come back here?

Scarpetta: “I knew I was going to get traded because I asked to be traded up here. I was hoping I’d be playing in front of my family and friends for a year, so I knew it was coming. I loved Southern Illinois — it was amazing and unbelievable down there. On the other hand, I love Rockford and I love playing here, so it worked out for the best.”

BDN: How’s the pitching coach gig going at Rock Valley?

Scarpetta: “I like doing that. I like being around kids and helping them out. I was really blessed to have my dad and uncle work with me throughout my career. So for me to give anything back means a lot.”

BDN: Is younger brother (and Rock Valley freshman) Ryan coachable?

Scarpetta: “It was interesting to see how it would go, but you treat him like any other guy on the team. I’m pretty laid back where I’m open to suggestions from any kid on the team. I’ve been learning him and as far as him reacting to me, he’s done a good job. He listens to what I have to say. If he doesn’t, he’s in a little bit of trouble (smiles).”

BDN: Do you ever regret not taking a shot at the major leagues?

Scarpetta: “There’s not a whole lot of days that go by where you look back and think, ‘What if?’ But, at this point, there’s really no reason to look back. It is what it is and I am who I am. If I could do it again — if I could do it differently — I probably would. But there’s nothing you can do about it now.”

BDN: Why did you turn down the White Sox and the Braves?

Scarpetta: “I guess we just didn’t agree on a few things and sometimes it just doesn’t go as planned.”

BDN: What’s the future hold for Brett Scarpetta?

Scarpetta: “You know, I don’t know. I’m not much of a planner. I just kind of enjoy the days that are given. For the time being, I’m the pitching coach for Rock Valley and I’m playing (with the RiverHawks) this summer and when summer’s over I’m going to see how everything feels and see what I can do. If I want to come back, then I’ll take a look at that, too.”

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