CLIFTON PARK — It got to the point that the Shenendehowa High School student section referred to any home game as taking place at #PaulsHouse on social media.
That’s how common a sight Paul Cravetz became at Plainsmen sporting events for more than a decade.
“It was kind of like I lived there,” Cravetz said.
Cravetz wasn’t a player or coach. Instead, he was a hall monitor at the high school who spent so many of his evenings working as a crowd chaperone at games of all sports and levels. His was the friendly face everyone knew and liked to see, the type of character present at so many high schools.
“In every high school athletic program, there’s always these people working behind the scenes,” Shenendehowa athletic director Chris Culnan said. “Those are the people who make high school sports what they are.”
Before Cravetz retired midway through last month after starting with the school in 2003, Culnan estimated Cravetz had staffed at least 1,000 games for the Plainsmen.
That math might seem unlikely, but it checks out. Cravetz worked basketball games, baseball and softball contests, hockey on both turf and ice. Throw in lacrosse, too, plus football and a few more sports — and all levels, from varsity on down.
“Anything they needed a chaperone for,” Cravetz said, “I was part of the team.”
Cravetz, 69, became part of that team in 2003 when he started at Shenendehowa after working in the finance department at Albany Medical Center following years operating a sporting goods shop in Syracuse. He started working games as a hobby and to make some extra money, and didn’t stop until a few weeks ago after the birth of his first granddaughter — Marin Cate Speanburg — down in North Carolina. With her arrival, Cravetz took his retirement and moved south to be closer to her.
“But since I’ve been retired,” Cravetz said, “a day doesn’t go by that I’m not on the cell phone seeing how Shen sports teams did. I do really miss it.”
They miss him, too. While event chaperones staff different areas, Cravetz was generally kept near the student section — the “Gang Green Nation” — because of his rapport with the kids.
“The thing I noticed right away with him was the kids really liked him,” Culnan said. “They took to him and they listened to him. … He’s just one of those guys.”
Shenendehowa senior Sam VanderVeer, who golfed at the school, is a frequent member of the student section — and, yes, he said, the group can sometimes get a little rowdy. Cravetz, though, was the one that kept things from getting out of control. He was the Gang Green Nation’s guy, its sheriff and protector.
“We do get wild — sometimes — in the student section, and he’d hold us back so we wouldn’t get in trouble all the time,” VanderVeer said.
Usually, Cravetz pulled that off with a smile. Maybe a joke.
Shenendehowa senior Devin Smith, a baseball player, said that’s what made students gravitate toward Cravetz.
“The guy’s never in a bad mood,” Smith said. “He always brightened things up.”
“He was more like a friend,” VanderVeer said.
There are basketball games Friday at Shenendehowa that Cravetz would have been working if not for his retirement. Instead, he’ll follow them on Twitter, where he’s able to stay connected to the programs he watched for so many years. He expects that to continue, even as he’s thrilled in his new life as a doting grandfather.
“I’ll probably always keep track,” Cravetz said. “My wife always says I’m on my cell phone too much checking the scores.”