The Hit King
Baseball kids in the Houston area can get batting tips Monday, December 11, from a former big leaguer who, let's say, knocked a few hits in his time. Well, more than a few. Actually, more than anybody in the history of baseball.
Pete Rose has more hit records than the Beatles, Elvis, Michael Jackson, and Taylor Swift combined. Like a game of pickle, here's the rundown:
Most hits (4,256). Most singles (3,215). Most games played (3,562). Most at bats (14,053). Seventeen All-Star Games. Three batting titles. Two Gold Gloves. One MVP. And a partridge ...
Rose will set up shop in the batting cage at his “Hit King Academy” on Clay Road in Katy and give individual pointers to players.
I spent some time “talking baseball” with Rose on Sunday night. I asked what was his motivation for putting on this clinic and opening the Hit King Baseball facility.
“I’m doing this simply because I watch two or three games a day. I’m tired of seeing guys play fundamentally unsound baseball,” Rose said. “We’ve got to teach these kids, at a very early age, the right way to play the game of baseball. If you play the right way, you’ve got a better chance of winning.
“Our academy is all about winning. If the guy is a home run hitter, I’m not going to take that away from him. If the guy is a singles hitter, we’re not to change that, either. But they must learn that the more times they put the ball in play, the better their chances are of getting on base. The more times they’re on base, the better their chances are of scoring runs. It all leads to winning games.
“The big thing about me is, my first year in the minors, we won the championship. My second year, we won the championship. When I got to the big leagues, I expected to win the championship. That’s the way I was raised. Winning and being positive are good habits, just like losing and being negative are bad habits.”
Think fantasy camp for kids: one-on-one batting instruction from the legend who did it better — certainly more — than anybody. Ever. Whatever troubles and self-inflicted scandals followed him, Rose undeniably is the Hit King. As humorist James Thurber — or maybe it was Yogi Berra — said, "you could look it up."
I didn't meet a pro baseball player until I was an adult. I played third base in charity softball game in Phoenix. The left fielder was former New York Met Ron Swoboda. I thought he broke my hand when he gunned down a runner trying to stretch a double into a triple. I asked Rose, who was the first big leaguer you met?
“I was raised three miles from Crosley Field (home of the Cincinnati Reds from 1912 to 1970). The big weekends for me and my family was when the Brooklyn Dodgers came to town. Don Zimmer, one of the Dodgers, grew up in Cincinnati. He even had some of the same Little League coaches as me,” Rose said.
“In those days, the visitors’ clubhouse was in a separate building behind the stadium. When I was a kid, maybe 8 or 9 years old, I'd wait outside the clubhouse for Don Zimmer to come out. Even though I was a Reds fan, and Ted Kluzewski was my favorite player, Don Zimmer was the first Major Leaguer I met. Not only did Don talk to me, he introduced me to Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Carl Furillo, Gil Hodges, Roy Campanella, and the other Dodger greats. That was pretty cool and I've never forgotten it."
The Pete Rose Hit King Academy enters its second year in the midst of heavy construction and expansion plans in Katy. There will be two sessions: 4:30 to 6 pm, for ages 8 to 13; and 7 to 8:30 pm for kids aged 14 and older. Both sessions will include question-and-answer time and autographs for players and their parents. The price is $50 per player, with half-off for additional siblings.
To register for The Pete Rose Hit King Academy, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the site for information.