By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
One thing that was very noticeable about Chase Petty during his senior year of high school at Mainland — when there were dozens of Major League Baseball scouts at most of his pitching outings — is he never “big-leagued” anybody. He was down to Earth, shied away from attention, always gave credit to his teammates and always had time to take a picture with a kid. He never said no to a picture or an autograph from anybody, and that’s a testament to his humble beginnings.
Most people don’t know this, but Petty lived a majority of his life in Millville before moving to Somers Point during his freshman year of high school. He had it tough, at times, and now that he’s a fast-rising prospect in the Cincinnati Reds organization, he’s wasting no time in trying to give back to the community that helped raise him.
Petty, along with his agency — MVP Sports Group of California — is launching the inaugural “Millville Madness” 3-on-3 basketball tournament, which will take place on Saturday at the Alms Center at 1 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Bridgeton. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and features two age groups, a 13-to-17 and an 18-and-older. Each game will have referees and the format is single elimination bracket play. Participants will receive custom gift bags and event merchandise. Proceeds benefit the Chase Petty Foundation, which, according to thechasepettyfoundation.com, is “committed to making a profound difference in the lives of underprivileged children in Millville.”
“This weekend we’re holding a 3-on-3 basketball tournament for an event for my foundation. I’m just trying to get the community involved and get kids out there, get everybody connected. I want to show (youth in the area) that I want to give them the resources they need to go further in life and to excel at what they want to with any aspect of life. Just any type of resources that are needed,” said Petty, who originally was drafted by the Minnesota Twins after displaying a fastball that touched 100 miles-per-hour in high school. “The reason that we’re doing basketball is because that was a big outlet for me and my friends growing up, just going to some local parks in Millville. We would always go there and play, and I’ve met some of my closest friends to this day just doing that, playing basketball.”
Petty credits his agency, including owner Dan Lozano, Head of Public Relations Cesar Fernandez and Director of Research and Development Mike DeCicco — a former Mainland Regional High player and former coach at Absegami High — among others.
“It was really a lot of just me and my agency. They’ve been unbelievable with their help in all this,” Petty said. “This really would not be possible without any of them. I went to Millville High for about half a year (before moving to Somers Point), so I’m excited to get back there.”
Petty, 20, was drafted in the first round out of high school, when he was the New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year, and then traded to the Reds in exchange for Sonny Gray and Francis Peguero. In three minor-league seasons he’s posted a 2.84 ERA and has 168 strikeouts in 171 innings. He’s gone from rookie ball to the AA Chatanooga Lookouts, where he said he expects to begin the 2024 season.
“It’s been a wild ride to say the least — a whirlwind. Everything’s going really, really fast. It feels like it was yesterday I was wearing that Mainland uniform, but I’m just so blessed and so happy that I’m in this position to be able to give back to the community that really molded me into who I am and made me who I am,” Petty said. “If it weren’t for the people who let me sleep at their place when I needed somewhere to stay, all my friends that I went out and played ball with when I needed to get out of the house. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be where I am now, so I just feel so blessed to be able to do this for them.
“(South Jersey) means everything. It’s one of the biggest things you hear — stick to your roots — and that couldn’t be more true for me. The (Millville) community has just done so much more than I can thank them for. And I just want to give back to them any way that I can. I couldn’t be more excited to get this going.”
Petty said he hopes “Millville Madness” takes off and just gets bigger and better every year.
“I don’t really know what to expect, we’re hoping for the best. We hope that everyone in the community can make it out there and get involved,” he said. “I just want to show the community that someone is really there for them and wants the best for them. The goal is to make this an annual event and just grow it every year. That’s our biggest goal. It would be great if in 10 or 15 years this thing is huge.”
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays