COLUMBIA FALLS — Columbia Falls baseball coach Bill Sapa passed away Tuesday, and with the unexpected loss his family, friends, and the local community have only begun to cope with the tragedy.
"I wasn't processing what I was being told. And it was just like, 'Are you kidding me?,'" Columbia Falls High School athletic director Troy Bowman said of learning of Sapa's death. "I couldn't fathom what was being said because I had just seen him. I mean, I drove by the baseball field Monday night on my way home and saw everybody out there."
The Sapa family told MTN Sports that a cause of death was still being determined, and plans for a memorial service are pending.
When it comes to his impact, Sapa was head coach of Columbia Falls' inaugural baseball team for only a short time, but it was long enough to leave a legacy.
"I'm so thankful to have that team picture that we had with him in it," said an emotional Bowman. "In our inaugural season, having him as our head coach, that will go down forever in our history."
Sapa was heavily involved in the community, from owning the Blue Moon Tavern to working with youth athletes to hosting fundraising auctions and donating money to the high school sports programs, including most recently hosting the baseball auction benefit last Friday, in which Sapa himself spent over $6,000 giving back to the high school baseball program.
That's why Bowman plans to do everything possible to give students the resources they may need.
"We probably want to get back to things as close to normal as possible as we can," said Bowman."Definitely supporting our kids throughout this entire process because the grieving process is going to be different for each and every one of us."
As for remembering Sapa, Bowman called him a close friend ever since he moved next door to their family ranch 27 years ago.
"When I first moved here, my next door neighbor, him and I on occasion would get out our golf clubs and use the Sapa ranch as our driving range and try not to hit the cows," said Bowman.
"But within a day or two, Dick (Sapa) or Billy, or both, would stop by in the farm truck or their tractor, drop off a bucket of balls that would have some manure on them, and say, ‘Keep swinging boys’. So that's my wish to coach Sapa — keep swinging, Billy."