The baseball coach at The College of Wooster is retiring after nearly 40 years. Tim Pettorini leaves as the fifth-winningest coach in Division III history, guiding his teams to the NCAA tournament more than two dozen times. WKSU sports commentator Terry Pluto says Pettorini’s legacy is remarkable.
A different route
On paper, Pettorini is a coaching legend. After 38 years at Wooster, he led the Fighting Scots to 19 North Coast Athletic Conference championships and 26 trips to the NCAA Division III tournament. They have had two runner-up finishes (1997, 2009) and a third-place performance in 2005. He's also never had a losing season.
But Pluto says Pettorini's journey to Wooster is unlike most college coaches. "He's not a guy who played in Division III and goes on to coach at their alma mater. He played at Bowling Green and was drafted by the San Diego Padres in 1973."
Pluto said Pettorini was realistic about his future and turned down the big leagues. "He said 'I was 21-year-old. I was married. They offered me $500 and a bus ticket to go play somewhere in Iowa.'"
So, Pettorini became a teacher and coach at Fremont Ross High School. Then the Wooster job opened up. "His goal actually was to coach in college. But he said he almost didn't take it because it offered less money than he made at Fremont High. He took a pay cut at the age of 30 to take it."
A fiery, caring coach
Pettorini has always been known as a fiery coach. "He'll rip into you, and then 10 minutes later he's got his arm around you trying to settle you down."
"After a few years he realized that his style of good cop/bad-cop all rolled into one might work better at Division III because he might have a better student and a more motivated kid." Division III doesn't offer scholarships.
"He said, 'Kids still want to be pushed and they want to be better but they have to believe that you care about them and really do.' In Division III that's more likely to happen because you're not really trying to use this as a stepping stone to somewhere else."
Going pro in life
Pluto says a number of Pettorini's players have gone on to be doctors, dentists, teachers and coaches. "They have gone pro in life."
At one point in his career, Pluto said Bowling Green State University offered Pettorini a chance to coach in Division I. He turned it down.
"He said that by then his wife and family were settled in Wooster. And I think what happens with these guys is that they realize once they get it set up, you don't have to do stuff like sleep in your office and you're on the road recruiting like they do in Division I."
Wooster assistant Barry Craddock has been named interim head coach for the 2020 season.
Pluto says Pettorini looks forward to watching his grandson, Tyler Pettorini, play baseball for Wooster High School. Tyler has made a verbal commitment to play for Ohio State University.
Correction: This story originally opened by saying Tim Pettorini is retiring after nearly 30 years.