GLENDALE, Ariz. — Your name is Pete Rose, but you are not the Pete Rose with a Major League Baseball record 4,256 hits — a Jr. also has been included in your title.
those two letters, followed by a period, immediately alter your standing from one of the game’s most accomplished hitters, hard-nosed players and infamous characters. Instead, you are the manager of the 2011 White Sox short-season Rookie Bristol club, playing in the Appalachian League. It’s not glamorous or remotely high profile.
It’s a plane ride and a couple car trips away from the successful big league career the younger Rose thought he would have. but it might actually be the start of what becomes the young man’s true professional calling. He started with the White Sox in October’s instructional league and has already made an impact.
“I’m telling you what, he’s contagious. He’s like his father,” said White Sox director of player development Buddy Bell, who played for the elder Rose from 1985-88. “Everyone likes to be around him, and he has a quick wit, but most importantly, he’s a good kid and we are giving him a chance to one day manage in the big leagues.”
“He loves to manage,” said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who had a chance to talk with Rose Jr. during Spring Training. “It seems like he has a lot of enthusiasm. He’s into it. He loves to teach. I’m very glad he’s in our system.”
Bell says he has been after the younger Rose to serve as a manager since 1999, when Bell served as the Reds’ farm director. Rose Jr. confirmed the story during a recent conversation with a group of Chicago media members at the White Sox Camelback Ranch facility in Glendale, Ariz.
one problem existed with Bell’s plan: Rose Jr. was not ready to make the transition from player to coach or manager. He had a taste of the big leagues, via two hits in 14 at-bats during the 1997 season, and he was convinced that short time would not end up as his only Major League stint.
“I’ve talked to him for close to 10 years about coaching, because I always felt he was somebody who is going to manage in the big leagues,” Bell said. “When I tried to talk to him when I was farm director in Cincinnati, he wasn’t ready to stop playing.”
“If I would have done it 12 years ago, I would not be the guy I am today as far as meeting people and playing with guys,” Rose Jr. said. “It was a great opportunity for me to come over here, and now it’s about me making the best of the opportunity.”
A 20-year playing career began after he was selected by the Orioles in the 12th round of the 1988 First-Year Player Draft. Rose Jr. played the 1989 season with Minor League teams in Erie, Pa., and Frederick, Md. Along with that inaugural year, and his brief stop with the Reds, Rose Jr. suited up for 12 other teams and was a member of six organizations.
there were two stints with the White Sox — in 1991 and from 1994-96, — and Rose Jr. spent seven years at the Class A level. That sort of rough ride knocks out even the most determined of players, but Rose Jr. never gave up the dream.
This determination should translate well to Draft picks or young players who are starting out in the White Sox system and are momentarily questioning their future.
“You know what? He’s not going to differentiate whether it’s the Major League team or the Bristol White Sox,” Bell said. “That’s just as important to him, absolutely. He’s got a soft shoulder for them. He knows what they have been through, and he’s been through it himself.”
“I mean, it helps. I’ve played seven years of ‘A’ ball, which is kind of unheard of,” Rose Jr. said. “You tell guys on the bubble, ‘What are you going to do? Are you going to quit?’ there was never any quit in what I was going to do. It was a plus for the simple reason in that I’ve been the guy who didn’t make this roster. I’ve been released and all the other stuff. You just keep playing and keep scratching, and good things will happen.”
Playing and scratching is exactly what Rose Jr. did. He spent nine years playing in the unaffiliated independent leagues before moving on to this next career step.
At 41, Rose Jr. has been to Spring Training 39 times. He grew up around the big Red Machine, the legendary Reds group termed as “my team” by Guillen. in fact, Guillen’s first photograph as a big leaguer was one he had taken with the elder Rose during Spring Training in Sarasota, Fla.
Guillen said that picture still hangs in his house.
“Growing up when I grew up, Pete Rose should be your favorite,” Guillen said. “He was so good of a player, the way he played, he inspired a lot of people.”
“I was telling somebody that when you go to Cincinnati, that’s Babe Ruth,” Rose Jr. said of his dad. “He’s not, but that’s our Babe Ruth in Cincinnati. I don’t think my dad really understands that. You go to basketball games, or he watches my son play, and everybody is kind of in awe. I’m in awe, as well, by watching him think through things and deal with things. It’s amazing. He’s going to be 70 next month, it’s like, ‘Wow.’ It’s really incredible. if I could have half of his mind, I would be pretty well off.”
Rose Jr. explained that his father always had a way of doing things, always functioning with a purpose even if it was a bit unorthodox. as an example, when Rose Jr. was in a 0-for-20 slump during the 1991 season, he called his dad and asked for the hit king’s advice on how to break loose.
“His response was, ‘I don’t know, son. I’ve never been in one. Keep swinging. Call me tomorrow,'” Rose Jr. said with a laugh. “But that’s how he is.
“I’m as normal as they come. the only difference is my dad has more hits than anyone else’s dad. That’s what it all boils down to.”
Having Pete Rose’s name has opened baseball doors for the younger man. It also probably has closed a few. but Rose Jr. has already made this job his own, working in a world of diamonds he never wanted to leave.
“I don’t see [Nike founder] Phil Knight’s family doing anything but the swoosh. His heart is shaped like a swoosh. My heart is shaped like a baseball,” Rose Jr. said. “He’s just dad, and it has to help. but it helps for different reasons than probably everybody thinks as far as baseball reasons, as far as how I grew up and know the lifestyle and [have] done this all of my life, as far as going to the ballpark and taking batting practice and watching him do everything.
“That will rub off on my kids as far as being on time and playing hard. That gives me the advantage over most people.”
Rose Jr. said he plans on using his father as a sounding board.
“We talk all the time. He actually came out for instructional league. He came out for a week and watched all the games. He glows when he gets around these kids. It’s great for the kids to see him and tell stories.
“We talk about my kids and grandpa stuff and father and son stuff. we talked about situations during the instructional league,” Rose Jr. said. “It’s a good lifeline to have if I have a problem and don’t know what to do here or there. I pick up the phone, call him and get some answers. He’s my biggest supporter and I’m his. It works out well for us.”
<a href="http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20110404&content_id=17371828&vkey=affililiate&c_id=cwstag:news.google.com,2005:cluster=http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20110404″>Pete Rose Jr. now managing in White Sox system
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