The Obit For Sam Nattile

Sam Nattile leaves legacy on baseball in Brevard

Florida Today
April. 8, 2011


Determined to succeed in life and blessed with natural talent, Sam Nattile rose from playing Little League baseball at Holder Park in Mims to a highly regarded draft choice of the Boston Red Sox and later a long career as a respected officer in the corrections system.

Nattile, 50, passed away April 1 after a short illness and leaves behind a legacy that few athletes from Brevard County will ever match.

"Sam was one of a kind and one those people you never forget," said Fred Bynum, his principal at Astronaut High. "He was a great young man and a school leader. Everybody liked him and all the younger kids looked up to him in school."

Known for his power and prowess with the glove, Nattile was a prep All-American who helped lead Astronaut to the Class 3A state baseball playoffs in 1978 and 1979 under coach Boyd Wessinger. He also played fullback and linebacker for the War Eagles football team.

Graduating from high school in 1979, Nattile spent three seasons starring for the University of Central Florida before being drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the sixth round of the 1982 draft.

The Red Sox first noticed his talent when he set records while playing outfield for the Falmouth Commodores in the amateur Cape Cod League in 1981. He led all Cape Cod batters that season in homers, runs, RBIs and batting average.

He spent five seasons in the Red Sox farm system, starting as a third baseman, but eventually converting to first base because his path to the majors at third base was blocked by future Hall of Famer Wade Boggs. His roommate in the minor leagues was left fielder Mike Greenwell, who went on play for Boston in the 1986 World Series.

Nattile took the position change to first base in stride, earning honors as the New York-Penn League's Most Valuable Player at Elmira, N.Y. in 1982 and winning a Silver Glove award as the Eastern League's top first baseman at New Britain, Conn., in 1984.

"He was a very nice guy and was like a brother to me," said Amos Lewis, a lifelong friend of Nattile's who played alongside him at Astronaut and later also played professional baseball. "He was very compassionate and a very good teammate."

Lewis said Nattile's gift for hitting made him stand out.

"I played with many great ballplayers, including Don Mattingly and Willie McGee, and I can tell you he was the best left-handed batter that I have ever seen," Lewis said.

Injuries cut short Nattile's playing career and he retired from baseball in 1986. Returning to Brevard County, he worked 23 years at the Brevard Corrections Institute in Sharpes, attaining the rank of captain.

But playing ball remained a factor in his life as he and Lewis, who also works in corrections, competed every year in softball in the annual Law Enforcement Games.

He was named to the Sunshine State Conference's Silver Anniversary Baseball Team in 2002 and inducted into the Astronaut Athletic Hall of Fame in 2003 and the Cape Cod League's Hall of Fame in 2005.

Bynum said Nattile's legacy extends beyond the ball field.

"He didn't look for attention, but Sam earned the respect of those who knew him," he said. "Everyone will remember him as a great athlete and a someone of outstanding character."

Calling hours will be from 4 to 8 p.m. today at the Lewis-Ray Mortuary in Titusville. A celebration of his life will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday at Temple Baptist Church in Titusville.

Lewis said Nattile's gift for hitting made him stand out.

"I played with many great ballplayers, including Don Mattingly and Willie McGee, and I can tell you he was the best left-handed batter that I have ever seen," Lewis said.

Injuries cut short Nattile's playing career and he retired from baseball in 1986. Returning to Brevard County, he worked 23 years at the Brevard Corrections Institute in Sharpes, attaining the rank of captain.

But playing ball remained a factor in his life as he and Lewis, who also works in corrections, competed every year in softball in the annual Law Enforcement Games.

He was named to the Sunshine State Conference's Silver Anniversary Baseball Team in 2002 and inducted into the Astronaut Athletic Hall of Fame in 2003 and the Cape Cod League's Hall of Fame in 2005.

Bynum said Nattile's legacy extends beyond the ball field.

"He didn't look for attention, but Sam earned the respect of those who knew him," he said. "Everyone will remember him as a great athlete and a someone of outstanding character."

Calling hours will be from 4 to 8 p.m. today at the Lewis-Ray Mortuary in Titusville. A celebration of his life will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday at Temple Baptist Church in Titusville.