For fun of the game

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Brett Pettus wanted nothing more than to play baseball this summer. Weather it was with the Jacksonville State Gamecocks in the NCAA College World Series or with the Clarinda A’s, a summer collegiate baseball team in Iowa.

But as it would turn out, Mississippi State sent the 31-29 Gamecocks home with a 7-6 victory in the Atlanta Regional. And though Pettus was on the A’s roster, he never showed up.

So what is the four time All-Area Demopolis High graduate doing this summer?

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He’s learning what the game of baseball is all about again.

After an up and down season in Jacksonville, Pettus, who was all set to hop on a plane to Iowa, decided to do something he had never done before, return home to Demopolis and not play baseball this summer.

But though the young shortstop may not find himself in the batters box this summer, he will still be affiliated with the game. Pettus has decided to coach for the first time in his career.

This weekend the college ball player traveled to Troy with 15 kids he knew nothing of to coach the West Alabama American Legion Post #29 junior baseball team. And though the team had their share of struggles in Troy, Pettus believes he has already found what he came home to find.

“I’ve found the fun of the game again,” Pettus said. “I ‘ve been given a chance to see the other side of the game, the side that got me started playing in the first place, the side I had forgotten.”

During his 2004 season at JSU, Pettus hit .214. He had 21 runs, 25 hits, five doubles, one home run and 11 RBI’s. Not nearly the stats he had hoped for this season.

“I hate to use the word slump, but that’s kind of what it felt like,” Pettus said. “I was having an O.K. year. But I wasn’t playing to my fullest potential and I just couldn’t figure out why.”

Pettus began the season leading the Gamecocks in every category that involved a bat, from hits and RBI’s to runs and singles. But as the season went along, Pettus painfully watched his numbers fall as others blossomed like spring flowers.

That had never happen to me before,” Pettus said. “I ‘ve always been able to overcome any obstacle and been able to work through things, but this was something that I just couldn’t seem to shake off. I found myself doing whatever it took to get better, but it got to a point where whatever it took, just wasn’t fun anymore.”

Pettus did eventually find his swing again, but in doing so, he lost the fun of the game. And after a lengthy discussion with coach Case, Pettus returned home to Demopolis.

.”I had a very important decision to make after we (JSU) lost those two games in Atlanta,” Pettus said. I could go off to Iowa and continue playing ball, or return home and coach. I knew that returning home would mean taking it easy and that’s not what I felt that I needed to do. But coach Case told me that maybe the best thing for me would be to get away from the game for a little while. I think he was right.”

Pettus has found what he needed. He is where he knows he belongs and is looking forward to taking these summer experiences with him wherever his future may lead.

“Coming back home was the best decision,” Pettus said. “I needed to be reminded of why I ever started playing this game. And I know that by being around these guys this summer I will remember what it is that makes this game great.”