INDIANAPOLIS — Gary Pettis said he lived the dream playing major league baseball for four teams over 11 seasons.
And now Pettis, the Astros’ third base and outfield coach, is living another one, through his son Dante.
“This dream is far better than when I played,” Pettis told Newsday on Friday.
Dante Pettis is a wide receiver from Washington and considered one of the best returners coming out for the NFL Draft. Draft experts project Pettis as a second- or third-round pick.
The fact that Dante Pettis is playing football and not baseball is OK with dad.
“When he was younger, he was playing Little League baseball,” Gary Pettis said. “I don’t know if he felt that pressure of making the big leagues. The coaches thought he would be a great baseball player because of me playing.”
Things changed during Dante’s sophomore year in high school when he elected to give up baseball and play basketball and football. Gary Pettis supported his son because the time commitment to baseball is so great and he could get more coaching playing the other sports. Gary Pettis used to coach his son in Little League but the demands of playing and eventually coaching in the big leagues made it harder for him to continue doing that.
“I was playing a lot of different sports but the reason I stopped playing baseball was because I wasn’t in it year around,” Dante Pettis said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “It was hard to keep coming back to it when everybody else had been playing winter ball and all that kind of stuff. I was just coming off of basketball going into baseball. So it was hard to stay up with that.”
Dante became a dynamic player at Washington, earning All-American honors in 2017 as a returner. He set the NCAA career record for punt return touchdowns in a career with nine. He set NCAA single-season records in punt return yards (428), punt return average (20.4) and punt return touchdowns (four).
But he’s more than a returner. He caught 63 passes for 761 yards with seven touchdowns in 2017, becoming a big play threat for Washington.
And to think, Dante Pettis picked football, of all things, over playing in the outfield like his dad.
“I think he kind of knew that football was where I was leaning to,” Dante Pettis said. “I had a lot of fun playing baseball and everything like that but I don’t know, there is something about football that is just different than every other sport. I think he saw that I had that kind of passion for the game.”
The father and son team had a pretty emotional year. The father was coaching in the World Series with the Astros and the son was playing football games, setting punt return records. If the Astros had a September game in Seattle, he would attend his son’s game. If not, Gary Pettis loaded up the Pac-12 Network on his iPad to watch. Dante Pettis would check out his dad’s team in the postseason after practices and classes.
It led to a busy fall classic for the Pettises.
For Gary Pettis, it was worth it because now his son is this close to making the NFL. He won’t be the first from the Pettis family to play in the NFL. Dante’s cousin Austin Pettis. also a receiver and return man, played four NFL seasons with the St. Louis Rams and San Diego Chargers.
“It’s such a thrill,” Gary Pettis said of Dante. “It was such a real ly good feeling to actually see him play. It’s awesome. This is a much better dream than anything I could imagine.”