Enough Heart To Continue Chasing A Dream

Remember how Mom always said "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all"? Well, Pete Rose, Jr. has a lot of perseverance. For 15 years now, Rose has been up and down, in and out as he has fought for a chance to fill his father's shoes at least part of the way. After it looked like his dream had ended, once again, Little Pete is back and looking for another shot at playing major league baseball.

When the Phillies signed Pete Rose, Jr. to a minor league contract back in 2000, you knew it was for one of three reasons. One, he had enough talent and the Phillies thought he might at least become a solid major league utility player. Two, the Phillies were forever grateful to Pete Rose, Sr. and Daddy had called in a favor. Or, Three, simple publicity stunt.

In the pursuit of giving people the benefit of the doubt, I bought into the fact that maybe Rose could help the Phillies even in some small way. When I interviewed him four springs agon, he told me he was just looking for a chance and that he would play hard every night to make it to the majors. He also talked about the experience and leadership that he could bring to a team – that spring, it was the AA Reading Phillies – and how he hoped he could help some young players achieve their dream while he was achieving his. This was a man on a mission. Was his signing a favor or a publicity stunt? Maybe, but as part of that plan, the Phillies had at least signed a guy who was hard-nosed.

Before long, the bloom was off the Rose, if you'll pardon the pun. His heart was there and he sure did hustle, but the talent just wasn't at the level of a guy who was going to be a major league player. Somewhere along the line in that 2000 season, I again interviewed Rose and asked if he ever considered coaching. That was a thought for somewhere down the road. He honestly believed that he was going to be a major leaguer. In his defense, he did have a short cup of coffee with the Reds – again, talent or favor? – in 1997, hitting .143 in 11 games. You can't really tell much after just 14 at bats, but watching Rose against AA pitchers that summer, when he hit just .247, you could tell that even his huge heart and love of the game wasn't going to get him to the majors. Probably the only person who didn't see it was Rose.

Rose spent the 2000 season and the very early part of 2001 with the Reading Phillies before winding up the season and starting the 2002 season with AA Chattanooga. By then, it looked not only like there wasn't much talent there, but what talent he did have was being eaten alive by the fact that Rose was now a 32 year old guy. After 9 games, hitting .226, Pete Rose, Jr. was released.

In 2003, Pete Rose, Jr. was again back in independent baseball. His dream was still as strong as ever even though he was unable to find a spot with a major league organization. His personality doesn't allow the word ‘quit' and he still doesn't talk about a career as a coach or manager.

Gliding through the internet looking for any and all baseball news I could find recently, guess whose name appeared? Oddly enough, it was in an article about the Colorado Rockies. No, Rose didn't give in and take a job as a coach. The Rockies signed him to a minor league contract. Apparently, the dream hasn't died.

The story of Pete Rose, Jr is somewhat sad. All of his life, he has had an immortal figure to be compared to. Through good times and bad, there was a shadow that fell harshly across Pete Rose, Jr. Sure, the name probably got him to some places that he might never have reached, but it also put him in places and positions that he didn't really deserve to be. Even in Reading, there were some pretty loud whispers about Junior. Fans wondered if he had the same love of gambling that his more famous Father had. Fans expected more. Even had Rose shown the same talent as the others on the field, you always had the feeling that it wouldn't be enough. And remember, these were the hometown fans. The ones that idolized this man's Father.

On the field, Rose has those 11 games with the Cincinnati Reds to treasure. Rose has played in over 1400 minor league games, beginning back in 1989. Of those, only 71 have been at AAA and another 171 have been in independent leagues. In 15 seasons, Rose has hit .264 and his minor league strikeouts (540) nearly equal his runs scored (571).

Somewhere along the line, perseverance becomes stubborness. Further down that line, at a point that Pete Rose, Jr has now approached, stubborness becomes desperation and desperation becomes sad. Still, there is something to be said for chasing your dream, even when it's a constant uphill chase.

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