“Woah, lets go in here.” I said and gestured my family to follow me inside a small store. “Dad, who is this? Why are we in here? What are we doing?” Too many questions being thrown at me, then I realized a child born in 1999 would have no idea who the man wearing a Fedora, blue shirt and glasses was, sitting behind a black folding table. He just sat patiently waiting, arms on the table – pen in hand. “Here, read this,” I said, handing my phone to my son with the Wikipedia entry opened. My son’s eyes started to widen.”Keep reading, it just gets better” I told him.
Mandalay Bay was our hotel for two days during the summer of 2012, and I had no idea the man under the hat was working around the corner. He has a job in Las Vegas, and his job is to autograph pictures, chat with you and let you take his picture, all for the price of buying one of his 8 x 10 glossy’s when he really was a younger Charlie Hustle. There’s an ugly irony that he sits in the biggest gambllng town in North America, while being banished from baseball for gambling. So goes the world that Pete Rose lives in everyday.
“Seriously, he had that many hits, 3 WS rings?”
“Yes, he was an incredible player. Just read his stats.”
By now we were standing in front of the signing table waiting for him to finish talking to someone. Then he gestured for us to sit with him, my thirteen year old pitcher sat right next to him.
He was very nice, and easy to talk to. He wanted to know what all the kids did, what their hobbies were. He didn’t talk about himself unless you asked him a specific question. And he seemed very open to answer anything you asked. He obviously has grandkids because he adjusted the conversation differently to each child.
I introduced my oldest son, the one who loves and plays baseball. I’m sure he’s met a million kids who play baseball and my son was no different. What he said to him surprised me.
What position do you play?
“I pitch and play infield. Second base.”
“Do you like baseball? Really like playing the game?”
“I’ll tell you, if you want to play baseball, give up the pitch. You’ll only play every five days, you won’t play.”
“You play second base right?”
My son nodded.
“Well if you play second, you can play some short, third and even some first. You’ll play everyday. You want to play as much baseball as possible.”
This was Pete Rose the manager, telling a young player not specialize and focus on one position, but help the team by playing multiple positions. You could see it in his face, learn the game playing multiple positions – don’t just pitch. Learn more. Do more. Sound advice. He signed the picture we gave him and he continued the conversation.
“Who’s your favorite baseball team?”
“White Sox? My son (Pete Rose Jr) is in the Sox organization. I follow them everyday.”
It was true, he did follow the White Sox closely. I mentioned the Sox game the night before, it was an big win over the Yankees and he knew all the details. In a few sentences he was able to pinpoint their strengths and weaknesses, and be dismissive of bad play. On that afternoon they were about to lose 4-0, and he talked like a manager who grasped it all.
He won’t be able to share any advice with any major league player at any level — but he’s good for the kids to chat with. And he seems ok with that.