Rosenblatt legends come in all shapes and sizes. Some were athletes, others were groundskeepers or announcers. One legend was a 4-foot tall, 80 lbs. ball shagger by the name of Eugene Rosales, but everyone knew of him as Chopper. Even ESPN’s Kyle Peterson reminisced about Chopper during a recent broadcast of a Creighton – Nebraska game.
I tracked Chopper down and asked him to share his memories as Rosenblatt’s College World Series ball shagger.
RR: Do you remember what your official title was?
ER: My official job title I believe was ball shagger. I was too young and excited to have that job to ask them why they didn’t just use the same person who did the Royals games. I was actually an employee for the City of Omaha .
RR: How old were you when you performed that role?
ER: I was 11 when I first got the job in the summer after finishing 6th grade. My dad knew the foreman of the grounds crew (Frank Mancuso) and he simply asked him if I could have the job. Frank was a cool cat with his cigars.
RR: Did you ever meet anyone famous at Rosenblatt?
ER: I actually have met a ton of people and players who went on to be stars in the major leagues. Some of the players I met were Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Pete Incaviglia, Dave Magadan. A lot of them I still have autographed baseballs in a box at home. I may have met Chris Berman from ESPN not really knowing who he was since cable TV was a relatively new thing back then.
RR: You became a sort of Rosenblatt legend in your own right. Explain how you went from being a foul ball shagger to a Rosenblatt icon.
ER: That’s quite a compliment, but I think there are probably more deserving people of the icon status than me. Guys like Jesse and Terry Cuevas come to mind. I remember Terry wearing his cowboy boots all the time. He was always so nice to me. I only had that job for four summers from 81-84.
He’s so modest, or embarrassed. Chopper became a CWS sensation for the dance moves he pulled off whenever he caught the foul balls off the backstop net. His moves had moves! Chopper was as entertaining as the games on the field.
RR: What is your fondest memory (or a few) of Rosenblatt Stadium?
ER: I have lots of them. The only memories I have of the actual stadium facility so to speak are how I was always so intrigued by the light towers that lit the stadium for night games when I was very young. Believe it or not, one of my goals was to climb up one of them. That never happened of course.
My other memory of the actual facility was how I was so taken with being able to go into the clubhouse and visit with the players and coaches. Other memories are mostly of the people that worked there and how hard everyone worked to get ready for the event. I got to sign lots of autographs. I still have a couple of scars on my right arm from diving on the gravel warning track around the field. I guess I didn’t take heed to the warning huh?
Chopper (Eugene) still lives in Omaha employed in the mortgage lending business. He’s a loyal fan of the Kansas City Royals.