Of the two memorabilia collections to mark the great hands in the family, Gary Pettis’ is more valuable, but his son’s is much larger.
Not much time is spent in the Pettis household joking around about which is more impressive between Gary’s five Gold Gloves from an 11-year MLB career — proudly displayed on top of an entertainment center, positioned under a spotlight— and Dante Pettis’ footballs kept from each of his NCAA-record nine punt return touchdowns. This father-son duo is all about supporting each other’s achievements.
“The biggest piece of advice I hear in my head is his mentality,” Dante, a New York Giants receiver, told The Post before Gary’s Astros fell 6-2 to the Braves in Game 1 of the World Series. “If his team ever brought someone else in, another outfielder, he said, ‘OK, he might be more talented, be able to hit better, but he’ll never be able to outwork me.’ ”
Take a look at Sunday, when Gary, the Houston Astros’ third-base coach, wore a Giants hat during the team’s pre-World Series workout. About 1,600 miles away, Dante was the surprise star of the Giants’ win who unveiled an Astros-themed touchdown celebration and slipped a “Go ’Stros!” into his postgame interview in a city whose Yankees fans revile the American League champs over a 2017 sign-stealing scandal.
“I would hope people understand it’s my dad’s job and I’m not just a random fan,” Dante said. “I was just giving him a shout-out.”
When a rash of injuries destroyed the Giants’ receiver depth this month — the top four have all missed at least one game — Dante emerged from obscurity and was thrust into a big role. He produced 10 catches for 87 yards and a touchdown over the last two games.
“It is hard because you are looking at all the people in front of you,” Dante said, “and you are like, ‘I’m not the next man up by any means.’ ”
In fact, Dante was released earlier this season. He re-signed to the practice squad, but the disappointment warranted a call home.
“That was an area I could definitely share some experience and shed some light on,” Gary said Tuesday during batting practice before Game 1 of the World Series against the Braves. “It’s not really an indication of how good of a player you are. This is always the side of sports that most people don’t get a chance to experience.
“I was able to help him get through that basically by telling him ‘Keep your focus. Your time will come.’ To his credit, he did keep working and he didn’t let it get him down. Now we’re seeing the reward for the hard work.”
How did the son of a slick-fielding, fast-running center fielder end up on the path to NFL receiver?
“People always asked me ‘Why isn’t he playing baseball? ‘Why didn’t you make him?’ ” Gary said. “You just have to let your kid, when they get to high school, do what they want to do. He could catch the baseball, but he could definitely catch the football.”
Gary often invited Dante to tag along at the ballpark, to be star-struck meeting Ken Griffey Jr. Or build a lasting friendship with All-Star Ian Kinsler. Or just have fun.
“I probably robbed my first home run in batting practice in seventh grade, and ever since then I was like, ‘I need to do this,’ ” said Dante, who continued practicing sensational catches through college. “It gives you an adrenaline rush. A fly ball spins a little different than a football, but the hand-eye [coordination] and tracking the flight pattern probably carries over a little bit.”
In between the fun came father-son lessons that translated year-round, whether Dante was in football, basketball or baseball season. Sometimes, Peggy Pettis, a former Raiders cheerleader, joined in.
“My mom always says I got some athletic ability from her,” Dante laughed. “She claims to be a great kickball champion back in the day. I don’t know how that correlates to what I do now, but she always brags about that.”
Gary often equated the time a player arrived in the clubhouse with his success on the field. Earlier equals better. By sophomore year of high school, Dante, a three-star recruit who starred at Washington, found something more exhilarating than scaling the outfield wall.
“Catching a touchdown pass,” Dante said emphatically, his mind probably wandering back to Sunday.
On the most pivotal drive against the Panthers, Dante threw the ball on the one-handed reception by quarterback Daniel Jones. A few plays later, he stretched over the goal line for a 5-yard touchdown catch confirmed by replay.
“I saw him throw the ball and thought ‘Oh my God, that was the last thing I thought was going to happen on that play,’ ” Gary said. “He hadn’t talked about it, which I guess that’s what you do when you have a trick play. Then the touchdown, they’re reviewing the play and I’m sitting there going ‘Hurry up, I got to go to a meeting!’ ”
Dante celebrated by pointing to his wrist. Why? Because Astros shortstop Carlos Correa pointed to his wrist — “It’s my time!” — after slugging a home run in Game 1 of the ALCS.
Could this two-game stretch be the overdue beginning of Dante’s time, after the 2018 second-round draft pick of the 49ers has had a hard time finding solid footing?
“I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m going to keep working like this is the launching pad,” Dante said. “It’s a good starting point. I’m just happy to be part of this receiver room.”
Athlete and fan
Dante and his girlfriend kept a tight circle Tuesday night to watch Game 1.
“I’ve got two cats and they seem to enjoy staring at the TV when baseball is on,” Dante quipped, “It’s going to be a little intense in the apartment when baseball is on.”
Why not a bigger crowd? Not all Giants teammates share his rooting interest.
“I’ve kind of hopped on the [Braves] bandwagon over the past two weeks and just rode the wave,” said fellow wide receiver Darius Slayton, a Georgia native. “So, we’ve kind of had a little back-and-forth over the last few weeks.”
Rooting against the Astros? It feels like all of America has done since the scandal, which taught Dante one more valuable lesson by proxy: the value of team-bonding.
“They were like if everyone wants us to be the villains, we will be,” Dante said. “Whatever happened is in the past and they are like, ‘We are still really good at baseball. We don’t care what you think about us.’ It might be blocking out the noise or it might be fueling them, it is cool to see me that they are accepting what people aren’t going to like them and that’s OK.”
— Dan Martin in Houston contributed to this report
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