By Dan Guttenplan
---- — NEWBURYPORT — North Reading coach Frank Carey wasn’t in a celebratory mood yesterday after becoming just the second coach in Massachusetts baseball history to earn his 700th career win.
One day after explosions at the finish line at the Boston Marathon took the lives of three innocent victims, and four days after a Pingree School senior and North Reading resident died in a one-car crash in Danvers, Carey’s mind was elsewhere during a postgame interview at Pettingell Park.
Instead of celebrating a 9-1 victory over Newburyport, Carey held the game ball in front of his chest and held back tears.
“The difficult thing with something like this is there are obviously a lot of people here, and they’re all looking for this,” Carey said of the game ball marking his 700th victory. “More importantly, we had a little bit of a tragedy this weekend. One of the kids from North Reading got killed, and these kids are kind of hurting. This is nice, but there are other things that are more important. Especially after (Monday), I don’t really feel like celebrating, if you know what I mean.”
Carey referenced the death of Pingree senior Timothy Chaloux, a baseball player who died in a one-car crash Saturday morning in Danvers. Several North Reading players were close to Chaloux, who grew up playing Little League baseball with many current Hornets.
“I’m glad with the way our team played, they played well,” Carey said. “They were pretty emotional after the last game (Saturday) when they found out one of their friends — one of my guy’s best friends — got killed. We announced it to the team in the dugout after our game with Lynnfield. In light of that and what happened (Monday), we have more important things we’ve got to worry about.”
Carey said he will reflect back on the accomplishment at the end of the season; and when he does, he will find that his coaching resume stacks up favorably with any coach in state history. Carey’s career record of 700-270 is good for a .721 winning percentage. He has won five state titles and 25 Cape Ann League titles. Last year, after leading his team to the fifth state championship in program history, he was named BCA National Coach of the Year and inducted into the Mass. State Coaches Hall of Fame. North Reading’s home baseball field was also named in Carey’s honor in 2007.
“I don’t mean to put a downer on this,” Carey said. “I’ve said it every day in my career: This is the game that counts for us. For me, I don’t care if it’s the first win or the 700th. This is the game that means something.”
Carey, 69, started in North Reading as the junior varsity coach in 1965 before taking over the varsity program in 1968. His career overlapped with legendary Newburyport coach Bill Pettingell for 40 years (1972 to 2011). Pettingell posted 616 career wins, 18 CAL titles and finished off his career with his one state championship in 2011. He is also a member of the Mass. State Coaches Hall of Fame.
Longtime Pettingell assistant Steve Malenfant took over the team last season, and spearheaded an effort to have the Newburyport home field named in Pettingell’s honor. That effort became a reality last year when Lower Field became Pettingell Park.
“Obviously, congratulations to Frank on 700 wins; that says a lot about his longevity,” Malenfant said. “I think Billy and Frank respect one another. I think they’re both quality baseball people. It was awesome when Billy had his 600th win. Frank was able to have 700; that says a lot about his coaching. You can see a lot of his older players here. He’s given a lot to the game in North Reading and the Cape Ann League, as well as at the state level and the national level.”
Malenfant experienced coaching against Pettingell and Carey as the Triton head coach from 1997 to 2006.
“Really, the one similarity is they compete very hard,” Malenfant said. “Obviously, when I was at Triton, it was the same type of thing with Frank. If we did a job against him, I was happy.”
North Reading senior pitcher Ryan McAuliffe made Carey’s landmark victory a formality yesterday, logging a complete-game four-hitter. He struck out 15, and never allowed Newburyport (0-2) to close a five-run second-inning deficit. Newburyport’s Connor Wile collected two hits.
With the exception of a short photo session outside the North Reading dugout following the victory, Carey’s victory did not seem all that different from any other mid-April road win for a 3-0 team over an 0-2 team. Of course, a coach needs to oversee a lot of anti-climactic road April victories throughout a career to get to 700 career wins.