Now 31 years old, for the past 13 years Rose Jr. has been in the minor leagues, bouncing from team to team, taking long bus rides to towns like Altoona and Erie. He played last year for the Reading Phillies and made a salary of about $30,000 a year. It is not a glamorous life. He was released by the team in May, and is now rehabbing a knee injury. He hopes to be picked up by another team when he recovers.
"I'm a baseball player; it's in my blood," says Rose Jr. "That's the only thing I've ever wanted to do; that's the only thing I've ever thought about doing. I've always wanted to be just like Dad."
Rose Jr. says that he has enjoyed being Pete Rose's son. He grew up around baseball parks. "I get to say Pete Rose is my father," he says. "That's fantastic!"
Petey, as Rose Jr. was called then, was by his father's side on the biggest night of his career when he set the record for the most hits in the history of baseball.
Rose Jr. remembers the night well, especially when his father started to cry. "Dad being Dad, Mr. Tough Guy, (I'd) never seen him cry before," he says. "Never really got a hug before or a kiss before. He told me he loved me. I told him I loved him. That was the night, and it was just a special night."
Rose Jr. says that his father had always been tough. "Dad was always the tough guy; if you cried, you were a sissy," he says. "When that happened, I think it kind of broke the ice. It was the kind of a thing that I'll never forget as long as I live."
A few years later, his father was banned from baseball for allegedly betting on it, a charge Rose Sr. has always denied. Rose Jr. constantly faces hecklers who bring up his father's past.
But Rose Jr. has been immersed in the game since he was a young boy. "I ate, slept and drank baseball," he says. "If you didn't like baseball, my household was the wrong place to live."
Karolyn Rose, Rose Jr.'s mother and Rose Sr.'s ex-wife, says that her son has always wanted to please his father. The two of them are alike, she says.
In one way, though, they are different. Baseball came easily to Rose Sr. It has been a struggle for his son.
And it's been tough on his wife, Shannon Rose. The couple lives in her parents' house. But Shannon Rose puts up with that life because she understands her husband. They met in grade school, were high school sweethearts and got married in 1995.
"I'm 100 percent behind him," Shannon Rose says. "If I'm not behind him, it's not going to work and our marriage is not going work."
Rose Jr. says that his wife calls him selfish, and he agreewith her. "When something burns inside of you so much, when you chase your dream, it's hard on everybody else around you," he says.
For a long time, Rose Jr. says, he felt pressure because of his father's success. "For the longest time I kind of did (feel that burden)," he says. "I thought I could never strike out; I could never make an error. But I just go out and be Pete Jr. and just play hard and play my game."
In 1997, he changed his approach and focused more on hitting home runs. Before that, he had tried to imitate his father's style, which involved trying to simply hit the ball, rather than hitting it out of the park. He says he decided to stop being like his father.
He had his best year ever. At the end of the season, the Cincinnati Reds, his hometown team, brought him up to the big leagues. He was given his father's old number.
When he first played, his mother was there. "Let me tell you; I cried," she recalls. "Oh my God, it was like - 'This is what he's longed for; this kid's so happy!'"
When Pete Rose Jr. slugged a hit in one of his early at bats, he thought he'd finally arrived. After the game he said it was a "dream come true to play for the hometown team."
But it was not to be. He got to bat only 14 times that season and was never called up to the major leagues again. He admits that he is bitter.
"He's had real good years the last two years; it's just mind-boggling to me that no one will give him a chance to play in the big leagues," Rose Sr. says about his son. "There can't be 750 players in this world better than Pete Rose the second. I'm totally convinced of that."
But baseball experts like Walt Mayer, a retired Cincinnati sportscaster, say Rose Jr.'s chances of a major league career are slim. "I think age is not on his side," Mayer says.
Karolyn Rose says that the family fully supports Rose Jr. on his quest. "I would never say to him, 'Give it up, it's time to quit,'" she says adamantly.
According to Shannon Rose, her husband has turned down various well-paying job offers, in and out of baseball. She is optimistic about the future. "Whatever capacity he's in, he's going to be awesome," she says. "He's going to be a great dad, and I just look to the future."
Rose Jr. is not sure when he will give up chasing his dream.
And Rose Sr. says his son loves baseball too much to quit: "He's going to play baseball until they tell him, 'You're not going to play anymore - you can't play,'"
Says the son: "I know part of my heart's shaped like a baseball."
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