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Juveniles allegedly steal Pete Rose’s bat during autograph session

Juveniles struck out when they allegedly shoplifted from a local sports memorabilia store.

While Hit King Pete Rose was sitting Monday afternoon in the back room of Sports Gallery, 1161 Smiley Ave., Forest Park, after a private autograph session, eight young boys entered the store, and one of them grabbed a black Marucci bat — handcrafted for the Hit King — and ran out of the store, according to a police report.

The store’s owner, Mark Fugate, 54, a 1983 Middletown High School graduate, ran out of the back door after the suspects, the report said. A Forest Park police officer, on targeted patrol in the shopping center, said he saw numerous boys running out of the store, and one of them was carrying a bat baseball bat, the report said.

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Mark Fugate, owner of Sports Gallery in Forest Park, holds a black Marucci bat, handcrafted for Pete Rose. The bat allegedly was stolen from the store Monday afternoon, then returned after the shoplifters were apprehended in the parking lot. Rose, Major League Baseball's all-time Hit King, was in the store signing autographs at the time of the theft. (Provided)

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Fugate said he confronted one of the juveniles in the parking lot as the police officer chased after the other fleeing suspects in his cruiser. Three juveniles were stopped in the wooded area behind the store, Fugate said. The property was recovered, according to the police report. Fugate declined to prosecute, police said.

Fugate said the officer returned the stolen Rose bat, valued at $150, and he was “stunned” to see the Hit King sitting at a table. The officer handed the bat to Rose and said, “Pete, I got your bat.”

Rose said the bat belonged to Fugate and Rose autographed the bat, then gave it to Fugate.

Rose and Fugate thanked the officer for his “quick actions.”

Rose told the officer that he somehow would be “blamed” for the theft, a comment that made the officer laugh, Fugate said.

“They will say, ‘The Hit King did it,’” Rose said, according to Fugate.

Fugate said he’s working with local authorities to see what other items may have been stolen.

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