Orchard Lake St. Mary's to dedicate 'Dan Petry Field' in honor of ex-Tigers pitcher
Dan Petry was a California boy, and even as of 1982 — the year he got married, six years after he was drafted by the Detroit Tigers, and three years after he made his debut in the Olde English D — he still was reassuring wife Christine, his high-school sweetheart, that the West Coast always would be their home.
Funny how life works out.
Petry is about to be forever entrenched in Metro Detroit, when, at 2 p.m. Sunday, Orchard Lake St. Mary's High School will officially dedicate "Dan Petry Field."
"Michigan has been so good, not only Orchard Lake St. Mary's, but the State of Michigan has been so good to me and my family," Petry said this week. "None of this ever would've happened ... when you look back, gosh, if the Tigers didn't draft me, where the heck would I be.
"It's fate, or whatever you want to call it."
Petry, 59, a former right-handed pitcher who played 11 seasons in Detroit and was a huge piece of the rotation that led the Tigers to the 1984 World Series championship and the 1987 AL East title, now has lived in Metro Detroit full-time since 1987.
For several years, the Petrys owned houses in both Michigan and California, but they sold the California home in 1986 (wouldn't you know it, the Tigers traded him to the Angels in December 1987).
He eventually came back to the Tigers in 1990, before late-career stints with the Braves and Red Sox. But Detroit has been home, specifically Farmington Hills these days.
Given all the friendships they made — including a lot of Tigers teammates (Walt Terrell is the godfather to one son, Jeff), and former Michigan State troopers (in the 1980s and '90s, the Tigers and cops often intersected at Casey's bar, a stone's throw from Old Tiger Stadium), and countless others — at some point, it made no sense to leave.
"I remember I got married and told my wife, 'Oh yeah, we'll never leave California," he said, with a laugh. "Then, at some point, it was like, everything was here, all your friends, and the kids started going to school.
"Now, my wife even says, Yep, this is home.'"
The Petrys have raised two sons, including Jeff, 30, who went on to play hockey at Michigan State and now is in his ninth year in the NHL, the last four-plus with the Montreal Canadiens.
Matt Petry, 33, who went to Michigan (a house divided this week) is entering his ninth season as the head baseball coach at Orchard Lake St. Mary's, where Dan is in his second stint as an assistant coach. Dan worked on the staff when Jeff was in high school there in the mid-2000s, and he has helped out since Matt took over the program.
The baseball field, located on the school's campus, has undergone a significant renovation ahead of Sunday's ceremony, including, according to Matt Petry, a complete resurface and leveling of the field, a new backstop, two fully-turfed bullpens with mounds, and a new scoreboard that will forever read "Dan Petry Field."
The baseball field is located right off Orchard Lake, which makes for some stiff, chilly breezes, especially during the spring — a regular reminder that, no, Dan, you're definitely not in Southern California anymore.
And that's perfectly fine with Petry.
"When they called and told me, my first reaction was, 'Why?' I was just like, this came out of — no pun intended — left field. I was just blown away," Petry said. "It's just so humbling, such a great honor.
"That school has meant so much to me and my family, my wife, Jeff, who went there, Matt, who is starting his ninth year coaching. There's a priest up there, I'd go to mass and he did a lot that affected me in a lot of ways," said Petry, who still has his Tigers ties — as an occasional visitor to fantasy camp in Florida, to Opening Day and playoff work as an analyst on Fox 2, to perhaps a role on the Fox Sports Detroit telecasts moving forward. "It's just special, a special place for us."