The last time Chad Beaty was in DeKalb was more than ten years ago, but Saturday marked a special occasion.
Beaty, a pitcher and catcher for the 1995 DeKalb Barbs baseball team, made the two-hour trip from his home in Bloomington to see the baseball field be dedicated to a man he calls a father figure.
The naming of Dave Pettengell Field was unveiled to the crowd after the Barbs defeated the Dixon Dukes, 6-5.
Pettengell was the head baseball coach for 21 years, taking his team to the Elite 8 state finals in 1995.
He was inducted into the Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2002.
“On a day like today, he's looking down with a smile on his face,” Beaty said.
Pettengell died in 2011 shortly after his retirement in 2010. He was 60 years old.
Pettengell's family was there to unveil the field's new name. His wife Barb, sons Kyle and Ryan, mother Joy and granddaughters Ava and Bella stood underneath the scoreboard as a tarp was taken off to show Pettengell's name.
Mark Sykes, assistant athletic director and driver's education teacher at DeKalb High School, remembers his colleague as an avid sports fan.
“He was all about hanging flags in the gym,” Sykes said. “That's what we all want to do is win state championships.”
Before the name's unveiling, announcer Bryan Klatt read a speech Sykes wrote about Pettengell.
Pettengell taught at DeKalb High School for 29 years as a driver's education and business teacher. He also coached the football and basketball teams during his tenure.
“Anyone who knew Dave knew that he spent countless hours manicuring the baseball field,” Klatt read. “I'm sure Barb would have enjoyed the same effort at their residence.”
Tony Kakoliris, who played as a pitcher for Pettengell and was on his coaching staff in 1995, said Pettengell was a great mentor and friend, adding he was “always there.”
Kakoliris was among a group of people who stood near home plate talking about Pettengell.
Former players laughed and joked with one another as they remembered their former coach.
For Beaty, the bond between his former teammates felt as strong as it was about 20 years ago.
“To come back and see these guys you haven't seen in 15 years, you pick up where you left off,” Beaty said. “Something's missing from that picture, and that's what brings us here today.”
Justin Keck, who was on Pettengell's coaching staff in 1995 and played in the '91 season, said Pettengell had a role in his decision to become a baseball coach.
Keck coached the Barbs from 2006 to 2010.
“He helped me make my passion [for coaching] as strong as it is,” Keck said.
One of Keck's favorite memories of Pettengell was when he got to place a medal around his neck after the Barbs finished second place in the Class 3A state championships in 2010.
Keck said Pettengell was always about the kids.
“As much as he'd be honored [to have the field named after him], part of him would have wanted all the credit in the world to go to the kids,” he said.
The Barbs' win on Saturday would have made Pettengell happy, former players said.
The team came from behind to win the game in the final inning.
“He would have found it to be the best thing in the world,” Sykes said, “and the next best thing would be playing two.”
DeKalb High School will install a memorial plaque with Pettengell's name and picture within the next couple of weeks. The plaque will be next to an American flag, which stands near the baseball field.