Last night, March 8, a date which will live forever in my mind...
This summer, I am going to Kenya with Athletes in Action. The director of the trip, James Bolin, wanted to meet up and get to know each other before we went on a two week trip to Africa. Through texting, I came up with a place sort of in the middle of where I live and Xenia, OH where he lives.
I picked a Cracker Barrel at exit 182, off I-71/75.
I got there early and James had beaten me there and I didn't have to walk him through how to get to where we were meeting, two huge pluses (look, I'm 47, set in my ways, but much more patient than in the past, but we hit it off well immediately).
About 45 minutes into our meeting, I was talking and I had to double take...it was Pete Rose...in this Cracker Barrel...in Florence, Kentucky.
You know Pete Rose...
Pete Rose the all-time hit king.
Pete Rose, my all-time favorite player.
Pete Rose, the guy I tried to model how I played any sport ever.
Pete freaking Rose, the guy who just transformed 47 year old Perry into 9 year old Perry.
To say that the meeting with James kind of deteriorated from there would be a nice way of putting it. I couldn't focus on what he was saying, I don't think I could feel my legs, and I tried hard not to stare at Charlie Hustle.
I mean, Pete Rose is why I sprinted out walks, he is why I slid head first, he's why I took out shortstops breaking up double plays, I love, loved how he played.
As I watched how people interacted with him, and more importantly, how he interacted with the people there, it didn't make me feel overly confident to speak to him, but I had to speak to him, I just had to. But if he were mean to me (little kid thinking there), it could ruin my entire childhood.
First a guy took a picture from the side, and Pete did not like that at all. The second guy walked up to him and he barely acknowledged him. I'm not trying to take up for Pete, but it could get old if people don't treat you like a person.
But I still had to say something.
I've found that when you talk to famous people, if you talk to them as a person and you bring up something that is a little different from what they usually hear, they seem to be more receptive. Or maybe I just come off as a dolt and they feel sorry for me, but here's how it went.
I walked up and he had his head down, I said "Mr. Rose, I can't pass up this opportunity, but I wanted you to know that for my entire baseball playing career, I sprinted out walks" (Pete was famous for this, drawing a walk and sprinting to first). As I was saying this, he looked up and actually gave a little laugh. I finished with this "and when people asked me why I did that, I said because Pete Rose did". And with that, he kind of laughed and said "That's nice".
I gave a little awkward wave, turned around and left.
James told me it must have gone well because he could see that he smiled and laughed.
As we were checking out, a woman put her hand on my shoulder and said "That was very nice what you said to him" which reinforced that I thought it went well.
Now little kid Perry thinks that he will remember me...who knows, but it was nice to feel like a little kid again if even for a little while.
No, I didn't get or ask for a picture or an autograph, I didn't want to be like every other person that approaches him, so I did what any respectful fan would do; I took a stalker photo without him knowing.
And for you people who for some ungodly reason don't know who Pete Rose is...watch this:
Click to the right: Pete Rose: Shoot to Thrill