Written by Kathleen Szmit
It’s game time at Lowell Park and everything is seemingly in place. The concession stand is humming, the press box is full and fans are purchasing goodies at the team store.
Kathleen Szmit photo
“HIT” MAN – Ivan Partridge, 82, is a dedicated Cotuit Kettleers fan, board member, and coiner of the team’s familiar catchphrase “Have a hit!”
Something (or someone), however, is missing. Where’s Ivan?
As Cotuit’s first batter steps to the plate, though, a familiar voice calls out above the rest, “Have a hit!”
The batter almost visibly relaxes into his game. Ivan’s here and all is well. After all, it wouldn’t be a Cotuit game without him.
Ivan Partridge has been watching the Kettleers play since before the Cape Cod Baseball League went collegiate. Even those who’ve not formally met him know who he is. He’s the man who encourages the Kettleers up to bat with his singular cry, “Have a hit!”
Interestingly, Partridge’s “Have a hit!” emerged from his desire to develop a playful banter with each season’s Kettleers crew.
“When I was in high school I played in a league of kids who had been together from seventh grade on up,” said Partridge. “There was a lot of bench jockeying, kidding across lines. It was very friendly.”
Partridge wished to convey similar friendliness to the boys of summer playing for Cotuit. “I thought, ‘I can’t do that with these players because they can’t get back at me,’” he said.
One day Partridge called out to a player at bat, “Have a hit!”
“It just grew from there,” said Partridge.
“Grew” is something of an underestimation. The cry has now become the catchphrase of the Cotuit Kettleers. While Partridge still leads the cheer, others now happily echo it.
The phrase has made its way onto Kettleers’ t-shirts, and rumor has it that it’s even made its way into the Major Leagues, too.
“Some years ago I began hearing that house parents [at major league games] would yell ‘Have a hit!’ to get a player’s attention,” said Partridge. “They’d look around to see who their friends were.”
Partridge had a real surprise while watching a recent big league game on TV.
“I was watching the game, probably the Red Sox, and I heard someone in the crowd yell ‘Have a hit!’ through the TV,” he said. “I don’t know what it is about that particular phrase, but it has it’s own life, clearly.”
Partridge recalls Cape Cod Baseball League Hall of Famer Will Clark (Cotuit, 1983) doing him a kindness. When asked if he remembered Partridge, Clark apparently replied, “He’s the guy that stands by the dugout and yells ‘Have a hit!’”
“It’s nice to be remembered by a player like that,” said Partridge.
Baseball has long been a passion of Partridge’s. Originally from Glen Rock, N.J., he first began watching Cotuit games while vacationing here with his wife, Jean, and their four children, Pete, Sue, Anne and Joan.
“We came to Kettleers games even when I was a kid,” said Joan, who came last week from New Jersey to watch the championship. “I couldn’t tell you when [we started attended] because it’s been my whole life.”
Joan gets a chuckle out of the fact that Partridge has been buying 50-50 raffle tickets for almost 47 years now and has never won anything.
“He’s always been about baseball,” she said.
After settling on Cape permanently in 1988, Partridge, a retired Episcopalian priest and volunteer firefighter, immersed himself in Cotuit baseball, joining the Cotuit Athletic Association and eventually becoming president of the Kettleers. He remains an active board member and is listed on the Kettleers Web site as director emeritus.
For some time Partridge was in charge of recruiting children at Lowell Park to help carry the kettles and collect donations during games. When balance became an issue for Partridge, he turned the job over to Becca Blanchette, daughter of board member Alan Blanchette.
“[One year] there was this real turkey,” said Partridge. “He asked her if she knew where the money went. She looked him in the eye and said, ‘Yes. It goes toward the transportation expenses for some of the players.’ I knew at that point she was smart and tough.”
Partridge appreciates baseball as a “thinking man’s” game.
“A lot of people regard it as a very dull game, but it isn’t,” he said. “You’re thinking constantly. It’s like a chess match. When you’re standing still looking stupid in the outfield, you’re really thinking of everything that can happen. It’s both physical and mental.”
Fans appreciate his catchphrase, and those who know him love his wry sense of humor and infectious grin. Partridge is known to slip witticisms into every conversation.
“I was in the Navy, in the Pacific, and did a little time at the end of the war (WWII),” he said, then grinned. “The Japanese heard that I arrived and promptly surrendered. There was some nonsense about a bomb, but we know what really happened.”
Partridge’s passion for Cotuit baseball, and baseball in general, however, is no joke. Dressed in his customary Kettleers polo shirt, he’s already looking forward to next season.
“I like that everybody gets a fair chance,” he said. “You’re never out of it. Don’t count yourself won or lost until the umpire signals the last out.”
And batters? Don’t forget to “Have a hit!”