Josh Petty made three major adjustments this spring, and there’s nothing like a 3-0 start to help ease the transition.
After a six-year absence, Petty returned to being a coach at University High. He also switched sports from softball to baseball. Also, he changed from coaching girls to coaching boys.
Petty said when he was first approached about taking over the Junior Bucs’ baseball program, he was a little hesitant.
“It wasn’t because of coaching baseball instead of softball, but because of the time it takes,” said Petty, who is 37 years old. “I was a little bit nervous in terms of time. But I’ve gotten support from home, support from my parents, and also support from ETSU.
“The new athletic director and (Buccaneers’ baseball coach) Tony Skole allowed us to schedule seven home games at Thomas Stadium. That added to the excitement of it.”
Petty took over the duties from Joe Borden, who led the Junior Bucs’ program for 15 years.
“He did a good job, and he’s a man of high character and morals,” said Petty. “He elected to retire from coaching.”
University High’s softball program soared under Petty, winning 20 games or more six times in his seven seasons. They consistently reached the sectional round, and made it to the Class A state tournament in 2005 and 2007.
But Petty had baseball experience, too. He started coaching Little League when he was at Ooltewah High School. And while he was at ETSU, he was an assistant baseball coach with Borden at University High.
One thing that helped Petty’s return was inheriting a really nice situation with the Junior Bucs.
“It’s a great group of kids,” said Petty. “They have senior leadership, and I’ve been more like a manager instead of a coach. They’ve responded to it.”
UH defeated three Class AA schools: Happy Valley, Sullivan North and Johnson County. And in the course of one of those games, Petty said he learned a big difference between softball and baseball.
“We were playing Sullivan North and we got down 5-0,” said Petty. “We were like the Bad News Bears. We were kicking it around, and the pitchers were walking people. In softball if that happens the game is over if the other team has a dominant pitcher.”
However, Petty’s team settled in, made a comeback, and eventually earned an 8-5 victory.
Another thing Petty said he likes about baseball are the managing aspects.
“You can’t ride one horse, and throw him for 20 games,” said Petty. “You’re counting pitches, and there’s more accountability in the dugout. You have to decide when to warm up a kid in the bullpen.”
Petty said the 2-1 win over Johnson County was especially important for his team.
“They made it to the (Class AA sectional) last year,” said Petty. “I told the kids in the dugout, ‘Even though they didn’t throw their No. 1, we only gave up one run. If it had been 10-8, people might have said it would have been different if they were throwing their No. 1. But they can’t say that if we only give up one run.’ ”
Petty said he will approach the baseball season with the same type of goal he had for his softball teams.
“We have eight or nine seniors, and anything less than a berth in the (sectional), with a chance to go to the state — not putting pressure on, and I wouldn’t say disappointment if we don’t — but I think the expectations are to get to that point,” said Petty. “The first goal is to win the district, and that will be tough. North Greene made the state last year, and Unaka has everybody back, and Hampton has everybody back.”
Overall, Petty said he’s simply having fun.
“I’m having a blast,” he said. “And it’s all because of the kids on the team.
“I also want to say I appreciate my coaches: Ryne Heaton, Chris Walley and Rayne Price. Those guys have made the transition much more comfortable.”