July 08, 2021
The hiss becomes more pronounced as it comes toward the plate. The scary part is that the ball has a direction, as if it’s telling itself where to go, confounding the surrounding radar guns aimed at it.
Triple digits blink on the guns, followed by knowing nods from Major League scouts.
It’s been that way for a few years now for Chase Petty, Mainland’s flame-throwing pitcher who’s projected to go in the first round of Sunday’s 2021 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
Petty may be joined by Malvern Prep outfielder Lonnie White Jr., Bishop Eustace left-handed pitcher Anthony Solometo and Red Land outfielder Benny Montgomery, in Lewisberry, out in York County.
Petty, however, may be the most intriguing, simply because he’s a rare breed of a high school pitcher capable of throwing over 100 mph. He was clocked over 100 at 17 at the Area Code Games.
What makes Petty, a University of Florida commit, that much more dynamic is the ball often lands where Petty intends it to land. There are Major League pitchers, some even with the Phillies, that have yet to master that pivotal skill, let alone hitting triple digits while doing it.
For Petty, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound right-hander, it’s natural.
“It feels the same every time the ball leaves my hand,” Petty said. “It’s been that way my whole life. It may seem a little weird throwing 100, because I've been throwing hard since I was 12, and it always feels like the same.”
Petty was coached by his father, Bob Petty, since youth ball, but Bob did something interesting as Chase grew older. Instead of clinging to his son, as many fathers do when coaching their children in youth sports, Bob Petty knew when to step aside to defer to someone who could Chase more.
That someone happened to be not much older than Chase.
Mike Adams is a 26-year-old 2012 Holy Spirit graduate who is currently a right-handed pitcher for the Phillies’ AAA Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Adams is also a walking pitching savant who could one day be a major league pitching coach.
He’s worked wonders with Petty.
Adams has known Petty since he was 14, when he was throwing 85 mph.
“That was obviously really, really good for his age then,” Adams said. “At 18, throwing 102 is extremely rare. But for him, his knowledge on the mound and being able to command multiple pitches for strikes is really advanced.
“He has a really good slider and a really good change-up. He has the total package. Chase throws a ton of strikes. He knows where the ball is going. I feel a lot of time when you get a high school kid who throws a 100, the knock on them is that they don’t understand how to pitch to and read hitters and don’t throw for strikes.
“That’s not Chase. What’s going to be awesome for Chase is what’s ahead. When he gets to the minors and can command three pitches for strikes, and read hitters and understand what’s going on at that level, it’s going to be really awesome for him.”
Petty and everyone around him feel he’s in a win-win situation. Florida is an SEC baseball powerhouse and if he goes where he’s projected in the draft, most likely in the first round, he won’t reach Florida.
Petty’s mental makeup is also a strength, Adams stressed, as he is more than willing to be coached.
“If you ask most people that know Chase, they say he’s fearless,” Adams said. “Chase doesn’t look at the mocks or care where he is ranked, he just goes out and is about winning. Chase wants to win. It’s all he cares about and that’s what sets him apart from other kids his age.”
Mainland coach Bill Kern played baseball for Chase’s father, Bob, so he’s known Chase since he was a young kid. Chase is a four-year starter for the Mustangs and anyone walking by the Mainland baseball fields would know when Chase was throwing.
Kern had problems when Chase would throw a bullpen session, especially when they were inside, because a crowd usually gathered to watch. Kern had to impress upon his team that they had renew practice.
“A few weeks ago at the Carpenter Cup Tournament, Chase went out to get a bullpen and everyone had to go and watch him throw,” Kern said. “Chase wasn’t even pitching. He’s always drawn a crowd, even when he’s not scheduled to pitch.”
What every major league team wanted to see from Petty was his “pitch-ability.” Teams wanted to see more than just velocity — even though he was still throwing 98 mph in the seventh innings, he showed command of his slider and had good control over his change-up.
“I don’t know where Chase is going to fall, all I know is that the team that pulls the trigger will be happy with their pick,” Kern said. “The Phillies have shown interest. It would make people around this area really happy, and we all can’t wait to see where Chase lands.”
As for Chase, he’s not letting the moment take him over.
“I have to look at this just the way it is, this is going to be one of the biggest moments of my life and everything about it is good,” Chase said. “I win anyway that you want to look at it. It is kind of like a long Christmas Eve. If I go to Florida, I win. It’s a great school with a great program. If I’m drafted in the first round and I sign, I win there, too.”
Either way, crowds will follow the growing hiss of the ball.
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Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who has been writing for PhillyVoice since its inception in 2015 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on Twitter here: @JSantoliquito.