KATY( FOX 26) - Little league baseball produces great moments for kids, but a team from Katy just had a night that will be unforgettable. The major league's all-time hit king, Pete Rose, was coaching in their dugout.
"Did you almost catch that ball?" Rose says to one of the players on his Hit King baseball team.
"Yes sir," the boy responds.
"Well that was a hell of a try," Rose tells him. Then Rose says, “Are your arms too short?"
Rose laughed, and the boy realized he was being teased by a living legend.
In no time, the entire team knew Rose was a character.
"He's got a pretty bat," Rose says watching a player swing a bat the color of International Orange. "It looks like he's working on a highway."
This night was the inaugural game for the Hit King Baseball Academy team, even though the opening of the academy is still several months away. The 20 acre training facility is scheduled to open in October. But players are already trying out for the Hit King teams, and signing up to learn Pete Rose's style of baseball.
"We're going to teach a lot of kids the right way to play the game of baseball," Rose tells Fox26.
The Hit King Baseball Academy in Katy is the first training facility Rose has ever put his name to. He says he and the academy coaches will help young players get college scholarships, and some will get to the big leagues.
That’s the hope of 13 year old Hit King catcher, Jack Johnson. Jack has already been selected to the USA team that will compete in the Dominican Republic's Latin American Baseball Classic in 2017, and he’s already gotten Rose’s attention as an excellent prospect.
"He's a player," Rose says about Jack. "He looks like a polished young player. He hits from both sides of the plate, and handles himself from behind home plate."
Rose says teaches kids, and even major league ball players, about the game of baseball every day. He loves putting his knowledge of the game back out on the field.
Of course, players who made mistakes in the field, were mortified to come back to the dugout and face Pete, but he offered pointers wherever he could.
"The ball will stay down on this Astroturf. It won't bounce high," he told one who just missed a ground ball. But Rose tells him, "Don't worry about it. Everybody makes errors. I'd have made that error. That ball was hit hard."
That last part brought a grin from ear to ear. The player finally found joy in learning from the two time Golden Glove award winner.
"What you try to do is get the kids to understand, if they make mistakes, why they can't make that mistake again," Rose says. "I hope it's a learning experience for them."
Jacob West also got some pointers from the one and only Charlie Hustle.
"When I rounded the bag [at first base],he told me don't round it as much," Jacob said, adding that Rose did compliment him for being aggressive on the base path.
"It's awesome to have the legend, the Hit King, in there giving us advice," Jack Johnson says. Jack learned that Rose was a catcher when he was Jack's age.
"I was a little leaguer at one time, and I didn't have the privilege of having a guy that played in the big league for 24 years sitting on my bench trying to help me," Rose told Fox26. "I think they understand all I'm trying to do is help them become better players."
"Is that the first error you ever made?" Rose asks the boy who misread the bounce off the Astroturf.
"No sir," he says.
"It won't be your last one," Rose says. "And did you use that glove?"
"Are you in the Army?" Rose asks him.
"Well, quit 'sirring' me will you, please?" Rose said, cracking a smile. "You're making me feel like I'm a general."
Rose puts the players at ease, but it doesn't change the fact that one of the best to ever play the game of baseball is now one of their coaches. Rose says the management team of the Hit King Academy is comprised of excellent coaches who understand his brand of baseball. But Rose will make frequent trips to the academy once it opens. That means great things for young baseball players in the Houston area.