Before Bill Pettingell spent 40 years as the Newburyport baseball coach, he was a three-sport star at Natick High.
Pettingell's exploits as a player will be recognized April 26 at 5:30 p.m. when he is inducted to the Natick Hall of Fame. He will be a part of Natick High's third induction class, along with former New England Patriots quarterback Doug Flutie and nine other individuals.
The ceremony will be held at the Framingham Sheraton, and tickets are available at www.NatickAthleticHallofFame.com.
Pettingell retired from his position as Newburyport's varsity baseball coach last spring, after the Clippers won their first state championship in school history. He recorded 616 coaching victories at Newburyport and earned induction into the Mass. State Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 1997.
As a varsity player at Natick High between 1961 and 1964, Pettingell was selected All Bay State League in baseball, basketball and football. He played on three state championship teams — one in football and two in baseball.
On the baseball diamond, Pettingell had a three-year batting average of .335. As a pitcher, he was 12-1 with a 0.76 ERA in 100 innings.
On the football field, he played quarterback, accumulating 1,400 yards in total offense with nine passing touchdowns and four rushing touchdowns.
On the basketball court, Pettingell had a career total of 769 points, which was a school record until the introduction of the 3-point line. He averaged 23.3 points per game as a senior.
This spring marks the first time in 52 years that Pettingell is not a member of a baseball team as a player or coach. The Daily News caught up with Pettingell yesterday as he prepares for his induction into the Hall of Fame.
You had a solid career in three sports in high school. Was baseball always your favorite?
"It was the sport I loved the most, but I probably worked the hardest at basketball. It's definitely the most fun to practice, because you can play by yourself. I did that endlessly. With baseball, I was more stubborn. I wanted to follow (Natick baseball great and former Red Sox hitting coach) Walt Hriniak and be a shortstop and part-time pitcher. Mentally, I made baseball my game."
When did you decide you wanted to make baseball your career?
"I had a wonderful high school coach, John Carroll, who was a legend in Natick. Halfway through my sophomore year, I knew I wanted to be a high school baseball coach."
What are your fondest high school sports memories?
"It was the time of my life and all of my best friends' lives. Natick was centered around athletics and school work. There was such a focus on doing things for youth. We always had a game or practice. That was a blessing."
You played for three champion teams in high school. Did those experiences help you as a coach?
"I have to give credit to (former Newburyport football coach) Jimmy Stehlin. He was the quarterbacks coach at Natick when I was there. I learned a lot about the concept of coaching from him. He taught me to handle kids with class, dignity and respect."
How did the two of you end up in Newburyport?
"He came to Newburyport in 1965. I have to thank him personally for bringing me to Newburyport. A few years later, I was a senior at Providence College, and my classmates were all getting drafted to the Vietnam War. Close to graduation, Stehlin called me personally and asked if I'd be interested in coming to Newburyport to be his freshman football coach. I told him I would do it as long as there was something tied in to coaching baseball. He told me he was the baseball coach, but he was giving it up after the next year. The rest is history."
Are you excited about being in the same induction class as Doug Flutie?
"Darren Flutie went in last year with my good friend, Walk Hriniak. Natick's trying to get caught up, and there are a lot of former All-Americans from the 1940s and 1950s who haven't been inducted yet. Darren was actually a better high school athlete than Doug. Someone else has to nominate you, and only your accomplishments from high school count. That's why Darren went in before Doug. But Doug will be the highlight of this one. People want to come and see him. I don't think I ever missed a game that he played that was on television. He's one of my favorite athletes of all time that I watched play."
Are you having a tough time with the baseball season starting?
"I'm good about it. I've stayed away. I said to (Newburyport baseball coach Steve Malenfant) after our pitching school, 'See you at the first game.' I have to stay away. Steve has to make the team his. I've been playing golf and doing things around the yard. The weather's helping."
Do you think it will be more difficult once the games start?
"If I didn't think the program was in fantastic hands, I would have been more apprehensive on Monday. Knowing the kids Steve has, they're all quality individuals. Steve is a far better man than me. I felt a little off thinking about it. But it's very good what's going on with the Newburyport baseball team."