Putting The Bases Behind Him, Coach Resigns

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The most successful coach in the history of Payson High School baseball is stepping down.

Teddy Pettet, who led the Longhorns to the 1999 Class 3A state championship, turned in his resignation last week to PHS athletic director Dave Bradley.

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Teddy Pettet (left) coached his final game of the season May 8 in an opening round state tournament loss to the Bradshaw Mountain Bears. Pettet talks with pitcher Dustin Hacker after bringing him in to hurl in relief of starter Ashton Shewey.

"He put in a lot of time with the kids and its tough to see him go," Bradley said. "He certainly will be missed by the school, the kids and the community."

In resigning, Pettet cited "family reasons" but also hinted the pressure of running the program almost single-handedly was taking its toll.

Pettet assumed the head coaching reins six games into the 1989 season after former coach Bruce Haught suddenly and unexpectedly resigned.

"I was the jayvee coach and (then athletic director) Harry Hostetler asked me if I would take over (the varsity)," Pettet said. "I didn't want to take it if Bruce wanted it back."

During his first year, Pettet was buoyed by a thorough knowledge of the program. He had played baseball at PHS from 1974 to '77 under former coach Tom Meck.

He eventually led the Longhorns to a 13-10 record and the 1989 A West division championship. A state tournament first round loss to Miami prematurely eliminated the Horns from post season play.

In Pettet's 16 years at the helm of the varsity program, his teams qualified 11 times for the state tournament.

In 1995, the Longhorns shared the 3A East region championship with the Blue Ridge Yellow Jackets. The 1997 squad reached the state tournament's final four before being eliminated by a 2-1 loss to eventual state champion Globe.

It was the 1999 team, however, that etched its name in the prep record books by winning Payson High's only state baseball championship.

Entering the campaign, Pettet had an inkling the team was going to be a good one.

"We had a lot of great athletes; they had won both the football and wrestling state championships," he said.

As much talent as the squad had, it wasn't well respected in prep baseball circles.

"We were a dark horse, about as dark as you can get," Pettet said.

In 3A Central region regular season play, the Horns tied with two other teams for second place. For the right to advance to state, the team had to survive a three-way coin toss and win a regional playoff game.

A victory over Fountain Hills earned the underdog Longhorns the state berth the team had scrambled all season long to nail down.

In the opening round, the Horns ran roughshod, 8-0, over River Valley. The victory set up a nail-biting 5-4 quarterfinal win over pre-tournament favorite Safford. In the semifinals, the Horns romped past Winslow 9-0.

It was during the three-game tournament run that Pettet was at his coaching best.

Because the team had but one true pitcher, Bryan Zumbro, he had to skillfully manipulate his ace in and out of games.

AIA rules limit the number of innings a pitcher can play each week.

Pettet went so far as to talk Hunter Walden, who hadn't pitched since Little League, into mound duty.

In the championship showdown played at Peoria Sports Complex, Pettet was able to start a well-rested Zumbro. The Horns opponent, however, was a No. 1 ranked Cactus Shadows team that had run-ruled Payson twice during the regular season.

Just when almost no one gave the Horns a chance of winning, the team responded with a 23-11 victory that is regarded one of the biggest upsets in state tournament history.

Following the state shoot out, Pettet was named the Arizona Baseball Coaches Association Coach of the Year and the Arizona Republic's Small School Coach of the Year.

Those honors weren't the only ones bestowed on him by the ABCA. In 1995, he was named the head coach of the north team in the state all-star baseball game played at Grand Canyon University. The ABCA again named him an all-star coach in 2002. After coaching the South team to a victory, he and ex-Longhorn Ky Bradley, who had been selected an all-star player, were invited to participate in the inaugural Super-50 game that was played in Bank One Ball Park.

Pettet remembers coaching in the home of the Arizona Diamondbacks to be a huge thrill.

"I was the first high school coach to coach third base in that stadium," he said. "I'll always remember that."

In 2003, Pettet opted to take his Longhorn baseball program Down Under.

After putting together a team comprised mostly of Payson players, the team traveled to Australia where it finished with a 7-0 record and won two tournaments.

"That was a big thrill for all of us," he said.

During his tenure at the helm of the program, Pettet had five of his players go on to play at the collegiate level. They included Tom Canale (Cal Lutheran), Larry Majors (South Mountain CC), Waylon Pettet (Central Arizona CC), Bradley (Yavapai CC) and Zumbro (Air Force Academy).

Canale and Majors were eventually selected in the professional baseball draft.

The key to the success of Pettet-coached team and players might have been his off-season programs.

During the summer, his teams participated in Connie Mack, American Legion and Arizona Prep leagues. In the fall, the Horns played in the Arizona High School Fall League.

In addition to coaching baseball, Pettet coached junior varsity girls basketball, junior varsity boys basketball, wrestling, golf and junior high/middle school basketball.

Since 1990, he's also been one of the most highly regarded basketball and football high school officials in small town Arizona.

After teaching business at Payson High School for 17 years, he resigned in 2000 to assume a position as recreation and sports coordinator for the town of Payson.

Now that his coaching career has come to an end, Pettet is not sure what it would take to lure him back into the profession.

"I'll probably not ever be a head coach again," he said. "But I might consider being an assistant ... someone who just worked with the kids and didn't have to worry about all the other things."

According to Bradley, the search for Pettet's successor will not begin until the conclusion of the school year.

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