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Pete Rose Jr. Has Shown Hall of Fame Poise, If Not Talent

The Baltimore Evening Sun

He’s only played two professional games, but already Pete Rose Jr. has received more media attention than most minor leaguers get in a lifetime.

And if this kid can play as well as he has reacted to outside pressures over which he has virtually no control, then he’s going to be around for a while.

With a calm that belies his youth while at the same time betrays the mental toughness of his background, young Rose is trying to leave his own imprint on a game that has been indelibly stamped by his famous dad. At a level where most players strive for an identity, Pete Jr. can’t escape the national glare.

It’s as inevitable as it is unavoidable. He is Pete Rose’s son and, especially in these turbulent times, the name means media magic.

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So, as he tries to establish himself in the Baltimore Orioles’ minor league system as a third baseman for the Class-A Frederick Keys, it seems as though every move is chronicled. He has already heard all of the obvious questions -- and dealt with them all, except for those pertaining to baseball’s ongoing investigation of his father, baseball’s all-time hit leader and the manager of the Cincinnati Reds.

“I don’t want to discuss it; I won’t discuss it at all,” the 19-year old politely told inquisitors before the Frederick Keys beat the Kinston (N.C.) Indians, 3-1, in their home opener recently.

He’s two games into his career (Rose didn’t play in the second game of Sunday’s doubleheader loss in Durham), and still looking for his first hit, but young Pete already has a couple of distinctions his dad can’t match.

In his first professional start he was involved in a perfect game -- on the losing side -- which may be a first in baseball history. And in his team’s home opener, he participated in the first professional game ever played in his team’s hometown.

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Those are mere sidelights, however, for trivia buffs down the road.

What everybody wants to know is this: What is it like to try to follow in the footsteps of a father who holds the all-time hit record? How much did he help? Is your game patterned after his?

One thing you don’t have to ask him is whether or not he ever thought about avoiding the obvious comparisons. “I was born to be a ballplayer,” he said, alluding to the exposure to the game he’s had over the years.

It would be nice if Pete Jr. could run out from under his father’s shadow, but he knows it isn’t possible. He has accepted that as he goes on with his career.

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“When dad was around, sure he helped me,” Rose said. “But he really wasn’t able to watch me that much. I probably learned the most from my mom, because she knows the game.”

Unlike his father, who is a switch-hitter, Pete Jr. hits only from the left side. His batting stance does bear a strong resemblance to his father’s, but beyond that the similarities aren’t that noticeable. There isn’t the mad dash on and off the field, although the intensity level appears comparable.

Pete Rose Jr. doesn’t want to be a carbon copy, not that he thinks there would be anything wrong with that, but because it would only shield his own identity.

“I have to do it my way,” he said, explaining his desire to establish his own individuality. “I just want to be me -- and he (Pete Sr.) wants me to be me. He hasn’t asked me to go out and do it his way.”

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“His way,” however, is probably destined to be the yardstick by which Pete Jr. is always measured. It might not be fair, but the youngster can live with it.

In the meantime, he faces a barrage of questions at every stop. One hour and 45 minutes before his team’s home opener, immediately afer batting practice, he was doing television interviews and answering questions from reporters while preparing for infield practice. As the season progresses, the demands will decrease, but for now he’s the No. 1 topic in every city.

“I’ve never seen anything like it in the minor leagues,” said Jerry Narron, the Keys’ rookie manager. “In the big leagues maybe, but in the minor leagues there’s nothing even close.”

What has impressed the Orioles throughout this trying spring has been the manner in which Rose has handled the crush since Pete Sr. became a daily headline. “The only thing I told him was that I would screen the requests and pass them all on to him,” said Doug Melvin, the Orioles’ director of player personnel. “I told him that he’s mature enough to handle the situation however he wants.”

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