For Pete Rose Jr., baseball has always been a part of life’s journey. That path has led him to Charleston this week with the Kannapolis Intimidators.
He started as a sponge in the clubhouses of the Cincinnati Reds’ famed “Big Red Machine” teams and the 1980 World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies with his father, Major League Baseball’s all-time hits leader Pete Rose. He followed his dad’s career path to professional baseball and was selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the 12th round of the 1989 draft and played 1,918 games between farm clubs, the independent circuit and Mexican leagues during a 21-year professional career that included one stop in the big leagues with the Reds in 1997.
Pete Rose Jr., 44, is in his first year as manager of the Chicago White Sox low-A South Atlantic League affiliate after working his way up through managing two seasons with Bristol (Va.) in the Appalachian League in 2011 and 2012 and rookie ball last season at Great Falls (Mont.) before getting the nod with the Intimidators this season.
With nearly 2,000 games and two decades as a player and a father that counts as one of the most talented baseball players ever, you could say Pete Rose Jr. has picked up a thing or two along the way.
“I’m just trying to help these kids not make the same mistakes that I made,” Pete Rose Jr. said. “We play hard and we’re on time. I just kind of let them go out and play. Managing is not about X’s and O’s, it’s about people. You’ve just got to try find out which guy you’ve got to kick in the rear, which guy you’ve got to pat on the rear and which guy you’ve got to leave alone.”
Pete Rose was famously banned from baseball in 1989, and in 2005 Pete Rose Jr. was indicted for distributing a substance called gamma-Butyrolactone (GBL) to his Chattanooga Lookouts teammates in the late 1990s. He spent a month in a Kentucky jail in 2006 as a result.
That didn’t deter his path in baseball, however. Pete Rose Jr. finished his playing career in 2009 before beginning his journey as a manager with his old man in his corner.
“To have him as my idol, my dad, my mentor — whatever you want to call it — of course (it was great),” he said. “We just talk baseball stuff once in a while, it’s usually about my son or my daughter’s soccer. We talk all the time and it’s great to have him. I can ask him about any kind of situation. ‘What would you have done here?’ He’s good to have in your back pocket.
“You can’t ask for a better person to have in your corner.”
This is not Pete Rose Jr.’s first trip to Charleston. He played at Watt Powell Park as a member of the Columbus RedStixx in 1992 and with Hickory Crawdads in 1994. He recalls Columbus teammate Rod McCall hitting a home run over the train tracks and one loud fan with a fondness for toast.
“He used to flip toast to everybody,” Pete Rose Jr. said of longtime Charleston baseball superfan Rod “Toastman” Blackstone. “That’s a good deal (that Blackstone still throws toast at games). Unbelievable. I’m going to have to say hello to him. It was 1992. I was with Columbus and we came in to play the Wheelers and it was funny. I remember the toast guy. He’s significant through this league and he’s flung plenty of toast.”
Dealing with unruly opposing fans is something both of the Roses became accustomed to during their careers, and a third Pete Rose could have the same problem in the future if his father has his way.
Nine-year old Peter Edward Rose III — also known as “P.J.” — was on hand along with the rest of his family during his spring break to spend time with Rose Jr., who said having his son around with him is a dream after spending parts of his own childhood so deeply involved with his father and baseball.
“Words can’t describe it, man,” Pete Rose Jr. said. “It’s something I loved doing. I just loved being around my dad and it happened to be at the ballpark. To have (P.J.) doing the same thing, you just smile. Words really can’t describe it. I wish he could stay for the whole summer but school and all that other stuff. After school is out and baseball is over he’ll come out.”
Pete Rose Jr. threw some batting practice to P.J. prior to Monday’s game. The youngest of the Rose men didn’t do badly, getting several balls past the infield dirt and into the outfield. Whether he follows his father and grandfather’s footsteps with a career in baseball remains to be seen, but Pete Rose Jr. said he would like to see him at least give it a try.
“We named him after my dad but he’s called P.J. after me,” Pete Rose Jr. said. “Hopefully he decides to play baseball enough to hear all the crazy nonsense that comes out of the ‘Thirsty Thursday’ crowds and all that.”
Contact sportswriter Tom Bragg at email@example.com or 304-348-4871. Follow him on Twitter @TomBraggSports.