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Call-up gives Petty a return trip home



Published: Mon, September 3, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



But the Southington graduate turned Tiger didn't get a chance to pitch against the Scrappers.

By BRIAN RICHESSON

VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF

NILES -- It would have been the perfect homecoming. Chad Petty missed by only a few days.

The Southington High graduate, who was drafted by the Detroit Tigers last year, was added to the Oneonta Tigers roster last week.

Petty spent the last couple of days at Cafaro Field as the Tigers played the Mahoning Valley Scrappers.

The only disappointment was that he didn't pitch in front of family and friends, and in the Valley in which he grew up.

"I was hoping to pitch here, but the way the rotation fell . . ." Petty said. "I'm disappointed, but you can't do anything about it."

Still, Petty's call-up to Oneonta from the Gulf Coast Rookie League shows that the Tigers like his development.

Winning ways: The left-handed Petty, now 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, went 6-0 this season for the Gulf Coast Tigers, who play in Lakeland, Fla.

"Last year, I didn't know what to expect," Petty said of a rookie season in which he went 2-3. "This year, I've come out with more concentration, done more things to make myself better as a pitcher.

"Last year, I tried to throw the ball as hard as I could," he said. "This year, I'm more conservative and more selective."

His first game in Class-A short season came Friday against Williamsport. Petty pitched 21/3 innings -- allowing two runs on three hits -- before the game was stopped by rain.

He will get another chance Wednesday in Oneonta, N.Y., when the Tigers face Hudson Valley.

Asked what pitches he's been throwing, Petty said, "I've been finessing my fastball, and I throw a two-seam curveball and a changeup. I'm just making those pitches better, and I'm learning how to spot my pitches."

Dreaming: Like any kid, Petty dreamed of playing professional baseball.

After a dominating career at Southington High for coach Tim Cope, Petty's professional opportunity was fulfilled last year when the Tigers drafted him in the second round. He signed for a $600,000 bonus.

His first impressions of pro ball?

"That it's not high school anymore," said Petty, who has an agent and a financial adviser.

"[Batters] take more pitches selectively," he said. "There are much better hitters, a lot better pitchers. It's a whole different game, and it's now a job."

Tough schedule: In the Gulf Coast League, Petty would wake at 8:30 a.m. daily and join the team to stretch and practice. He then would be part of a noon game.

The downside to that, Petty said, was playing in 95-degree heat.

Now, with Oneonta, Petty doesn't have to be at the park until 2:30, with stretching at 4 and games at 7.

After the season, Petty will return to Lakeland, Fla., for the Tigers' instructional league that lasts until the end of October.

"I'm coming back here when the season is over," said Petty, who added that he looked to rent an apartment in Howland or maybe even buy a house.

He also has a residence in South Carolina, where he plans to work in the off-season with his brother, who manages a warehouse there.

With the progress he's been making, Petty hopes to begin next season at the Class A full-season level.




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