MENTONE — While baseball may not suit everyone’s taste, for Mentone’s Chris Pettit, the game is something that always has been ingrained in his DNA.
“The house that I grew up in, in Fort Wayne, was right next to a baseball diamond,” Pettit reminisced. “Our house here in Mentone is right next to the baseball fields, too.”
Since Pettit spends much of his spring and summer at the ballpark, his residence’s proximity to the fields probably is a good thing, as it cuts down on his daily commute. Pettit currently serves as the board president for the Mentone Youth League, which provides tee-ball, baseball and softball opportunities for the children of the western Kosciusko County community. Approximately 250 boys and girls participate in the program, which this year will field eight co-ed tee-ball teams, four junior boys baseball teams for ages 6-8, four senior boys baseball teams for ages 9-12, three junior girls softball teams for ages 6-9 and four senior girls teams for ages 10-14.
The league receives no money for its operations from the town. Instead, Pettit and his fellow board members rely on the generosity of the community to make sure the local children have an opportunity to learn and play the game he loves. Pettit noted league sponsors come in four forms: field sponsors, dugout sponsors, banner sponsors and team sponsors, and Mentone businesses, organizations and individuals have been incredibly generous in stepping up to the plate to support the league. He added most of the league’s participants come from Mentone, giving the program a very localized and family feel.
Not only does Pettit serve as a board member, he also volunteers his time as a coach, both in the senior boys division and for the league’s entry into the Town & Country travel baseball league featuring teams from across northern Indiana. He and his wife Travena have two boys who participate in the league, Annikan, 12, and Olliver, 10. Travena also manages the league’s concession stand serving the three fields.
Pettit added while Annikan, who is entering his last year in the program, loves participating in athletic activities, Olliver’s interests are taking him in the more direction of the performance arts. In fact, Olliver recently performed as Tiny Tim in the Wagon Wheel Theatre’s production of “A Christmas Carol.”
When he’s not donating his time and energy at the ball fields, Pettit operates his own business, Pettit Family Electric. Pettit and his family attend Christ Covenant Church in Winona Lake, where he volunteers his expertise as the self-described “facilities guy.”
Pettit noted he and his wife were married for eight years before having kids. “We went on a lot of vacations during that time,” he said. “Now we are completely focused on our kids.”
Their family home is currently under expansion and renovation through the Tippecanoe Valley High School building trades program, the school from which he graduated in the mid-1990s. Part of the home’s expansion includes an area that will be available to Chris’s mother or in-laws. Before that happens, however, the Pettits are open to using that space to host a foreign exchange student in the future.
As far as the Mentone Youth League goes, however, Pettit is quick to offer his appreciation for the sponsors, parents, community, coaches and board members who make it all possible, saying, “we couldn’t do it without the community’s support and all of the volunteers who give their time to make it happen.”