Among the 21 Peabody High greats being inducted into the school's athletic hall of fame on Friday is Champions Pub owner Phil Mitchell. For him, baseball has always been a big part of life -- first as a player, then as a coach and now supporting local high school teams with his business.
Mitchell didn't actually win a championship with the Tanners' baseball club, but the team came close his senior year in 1978 -- all the way to the Eastern Mass. Finals -- and he racked up some impressive statistics pitching and playing shortstop.
In the tournament alone, Mitchell pitched three wins.
Reflecting on his high school years, Mitchell said, he was fortunate to be on a very talented team. "I remember it like it was yesterday," he said.
He added that back then there wasn't as much focus on stats -- partly because they couldn't just be tracked online -- it was really just about playing a game they loved. He said he played for that reason all through Little League, Babe Ruth, high school, college and beyond.
In fact, he played right up until he turned 40 in the North Shore Baseball League-- Mitchell was inducted into the NSBL Hall of Fame in 2005.
As for coaching, he spent many years as an assistant on the Tanners' baseball team under legendary football and baseball coach Ed Nizwantowski. Mitchell added that he refused to take any pay for the position.
"All of it was about the kids and baseball," he said.
Mitchell said he first learned he was nominated and chosen for the Peabody High Hall of Fame a couple months ago and has just been humbled by it all.
"Peabody is a great baseball city...for my name to be put down with some of the great baseball players is very humbling," he said.
After graduating from PVMHS, Mitchell played baseball at Westfield State and then came back to Peabody and bought a bar. Mitchell said he worked at Champions Pub all through college and then in 1988, he had an opportunity to purchase the establishment.
He said he and his family, and co-owner Kevin Houlden as of 1995, have turned the bar into more of a family place while still retaining the sports emphasis. Houlden was also a longtime lacrosse coach at PVMHS.
Mitchell said Champions has sponsored many a team fundraiser over the years for both PVMHS and Bishop Fenwick. The athleticism also seems to run in his family.
"[We're] just surrounded by sports," Mitchell said, chuckling -- his wife Jodi Dowd Mitchell was a top athlete at Fenwick, son Tyler Multner was a two-time Greater Boston League MVP for Peabody and went to UMass Amherst on a baseball scholarship and his wife's niece happens to be Tanners' soccer superstar Hayley Dowd.
Prior to the kickoff of this year's Thanksgiving Day game between Peabody and Saugus, Mitchell and the rest of the new hall of famers -- after a breakfast in their honor -- will receive special recognition on the field.
The official ceremony is Friday at the Danversport Yacht Club.