Coach finishes 40-year career with title and very old cap

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

Plenty of athletes and coaches have lucky caps. Few, however, have been more devoted to a single head accessory than longtime Newburyport (Mass.) High baseball coach Bill Pettingell, who has nursed the same dirty, sweaty, discolored cap for as long as two decades.

Newburyport baseball coach Bill Pettingell
Newburyport baseball coach Bill Pettingell

"It's 'The Hat.' A dirty hat," Pettingell, who has coached Newburyport for 40 years, told the Newburyport News. "When we go on a streak, or we lose a game, I go dig this out of the cellar. I mean, who are the most superstitious athletes in the world? Baseball players, right? And I'm one."

How old is the hat? Well, consider this: Its logo is long outdated, sporting not only the school's now traditional script "N," but also a "C" for the team's mascot, the Clippers. In big games, it almost appears that the head coach is sporting an odd-colored North Carolina cap while his team wears the uniquely traditional Newburyport logo.

To be fair, Pettingell doesn't wear his lucky cap for every game, only for the Clippers' biggest matchups. That's why the hat was on display when he earned his 600th career victory in the photo from the Newburyport Current that you see above, as well as two more key victories for the longtime coach: the team's Northern Massachusetts title game, in which the Clippers beat St. Mary's (Mass.) High, 3-2, for the school's first regional title since 1996, and the state title game, in which Pettingill crowned a career that has spanned four decades with his first ever state title in a 4-1 victory against Apponequet (Mass.) High.

Making matters more touching was this little tidbit: As reported by the Newburyport Current and other sources, Pettingill had decided to retire after the season. That means that, at long last, the coach and his favorite cap can go out as state champions.

"[Pettingell has] coached for so long and that's the only thing he doesn't have," Newburyport pitcher Ryan O'Connor told the Boston Herald of the Clippers' long-awaited state title. "We want to get it for him and for ourselves as well."

For Pettingill, the state title was the second plaque he received this year, following on the one that was presented to him in commemoration of his 600th victory. After his team won the Northern Massachusetts crown, he made it clear just how much a state crown would mean to him.

"It would be cool," Pettingell told the Globe of the prospect of winning a state crown in his final campaign. "I would really love it because I have the nicest bunch of kids I've ever had."

Now he has a state title. Equally importantly, he can finally put away that old hat, once and for all.

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