Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Unlikely Little League stint ending 17 years later

PALM HARBOR — In 1991, John Petika drove his 5-year-old son John Jr. to sign up for T-ball at Palm Harbor Little League.

That innocent trip spawned an illustrious, albeit unintended, 17-year Little League coaching career.

"I went down there and signed (John Jr.) up, and they said, 'Great, you're the coach,' " Petika said matter-of-factly. "They needed coaches. That's how I started."

When the Palm Harbor senior all-star team (ages 15-16) takes the field Saturday night against the all-star team from Clearwater, it will mark the final stages of Petika's last season as a volunteer Little League coach.

It's a career marked by considerably more wins than losses.

In 2000, Petika coached the Palm Harbor junior team (ages 13-14) to a third-place world finish, losing 1-0 to Canada in the semifinals. "I still remember that game," Petika laments. "We should have won."

A year later, he coached the Palm Harbor senior team to the world championship, beating a team from Venezuela in the final. That squad featured professionals Tyler Clippard, who plays for Triple-A Columbus in the Washington Nationals farm system, and Ryan Harvey, the sixth overall pick in the 2003 MLB draft.

John Jr., now 22, was also on that championship roster.

"It was one of the greatest experiences I've had in my baseball career," he said. "I played in high school (Clearwater Central Catholic) and four years of college (Florida International), and that summer was my favorite time playing baseball. It was a special group."

Those experiences are what kept Petika coaching, first John Jr. for 13 years, then daughter Dee — now 19 — in Little League softball and finally James, a 16-year-old junior-to-be at CCC playing on his father's last team.

"There are probably 2 million people across the country every night involved with Little League, but there's always a focus on the knuckleheads or when something goes wrong," Petika said. "All these good people and you hear about the bad guy. That really bugs me. … I think it's been great. I'm a big believer in team sports."

With no more kids in Little League, Petika, who also coaches the junior varsity baseball team at CCC, decided to step aside.

"I'll still help out with certain things if they ask me," he said. "But I think it's time to let the other fathers get involved."

Little League All-Stars Tournaments

Thursday's scores

District 12

9-10 baseball

• Clearwater 11, Tarpon Springs 7

• West Pasco 7, West Pinellas 2

• Dunedin 9, Countryside 6

10-11 baseball

• Palm Harbor 9, Clearwater 1

• Tarpon Springs 3, Safety Harbor 1

• West Pasco 14, Largo 0

District 5

9-10 baseball championship

• Seminole No. 1 3, Northeast No. 1 1

10-11 baseball championship

• Seminole 5, Northeast 0

Today's schedule

District 12
9-10 baseball at Largo

• Dunedin vs. Clearwater, 7 p.m.

• Largo vs. Safety Harbor, 7 p.m.

• Holiday vs. Oldsmar, 7 p.m.

9-10 softball at Safety Harbor

• Largo/Clearwater/Dunedin vs. Oldsmar, 7 p.m.

• Safety Harbor vs. West Pasco, 7 p.m.

Senior baseball
at Englebert Complex

• Palm Harbor vs. Largo, 7 p.m.

• Dunedin vs. Safety Harbor/
Oldsmar/Countryside, 7 p.m.

District 5

11-12 baseball at Seminole

• Azalea vs. Gulf Beaches, 6 p.m.

• Baypoint vs. Northeast, 8 p.m.

• Pinellas Park vs. Southwest,
6 p.m.

• Seminole vs. Cross Bayou, 8 p.m.

Unlikely Little League stint ending 17 years later 06/26/08 [Last modified: Friday, June 27, 2008 5:32pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. U.S. repeats as Solheim Cup champion


    WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — Lexi Thompson set the tone by rallying from four holes down. The rest of the Americans took it from there and restored their dominance in the Solheim Cup

    Lexi Thompson, left, comes back from four holes down to halve the day’s first singles match with Europe’s Anna Nordqvist to set the tone for the United States.
  2. Rays see the Blake Snell they've been waiting for in win over Mariners

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — It was a one-run game Sunday when the Mariners' Robinson Cano singled with one out in the seventh inning, bringing the dangerous Nelson Cruz to the plate.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) throwing in the third inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017.
  3. Bucs journal: Demar Dotson (mild groin strain) expected back for opener


    TAMPA — The Bucs got good news Sunday on starting right tackle Demar Dotson, whose MRI exam showed only a mild right groin sprain and who should be back at practice next week.

    Tackle Demar Dotson has only a mild groin strain.
  4. Bucs counting on better health creating better pass rush


    TAMPA — Ask Bucs coaches about the improved depth and health of their defensive line, and they'll look around for a piece of wood to knock on.

    Retired All-Pro defensive end  Simeon Rice, right, the last Buc to have double-digit sacks in a season,  works with defensive end Ryan Russell, who last season was promoted from the practice squad for the second half of the year as injuries piled up. He is competing for a backup job this year.
  5. Rays journal: Jake Faria heads to DL with left abdominal strain

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — RHP Jacob Faria made the trek he didn't want to take after his last start. It was to the trainer's room. The pain in his left abdominal went from nagging to an issue during his start that night in Toronto.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Jacob Faria (34) throwing in the first inning of the game between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, August 4, 2017.