Pete Rose, who’s still banned for life from major-league baseball after a betting scandal in 1989, will take the helm of the independent-league Bridgeport Bluefish for a single game on June 16.
Rose, 73, said in a statement that his intention is to remain as close as possible to the game he loves:
“I’m doing this because I love baseball. I love young players because they bring you one thing you need in sports — enthusiasm. These young men are here working their butts off. They don’t have egos — they are hungry. They run hard and they play hard, all the time. In the late ’80s I think 33 of my players had their first Major League hit. I’m proud of that. Guys like Chris Sabo, Kurt Stillwell and Eric Davis. I love coaching young players like them.”
In August 1989, Rose was slapped with permanent ineligibility from the major leagues after allegations surfaced that he was betting on professional baseball, including Cincinnati Reds games while he was a Reds player or coach.
It’s been two-and-a-half decades of waiting since then. A switch hitter, Rose is still considered a Hall of Famer, despite being banned from induction into the Hall of Fame. Some of his accolades: all-time hits leaders (4,256); all-time at-bats (14,053); three annual batting records; three World Series rings; and (perhaps most awe-inspiring) 17 appearances in an All-Star game at five different positions (left and right field, and first, second and third base).
The Bluefish game against the Lancaster Barnstormers at The Ballpark at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport will be the first time since 1989 that Rose will wear a team uniform in any official capacity. Needless to say, Ken Shepard, the Bluefish’s general manager, is elated.
“This is one of the biggest and influential announcements in not only franchise history, but in professional baseball in the last 25 years as well,” Shepard said in a team statement. “We encourage everyone to come out to the ballpark on June 16 to experience this special occasion.”
Rose ended his career in professional baseball managing the Reds from 1984 to 1989, tallying a 412-373 record. He hopes to inspire the Bluefish’s players of the independent, unaffiliated Atlantic League in much the same way he inspired the Reds back in his heyday.
In his statement, Rose said:
“I will tell each of the players in the clubhouse a few things before the game. I will look at each of them and say that every one of you guys has more ability right now than I did at 18 years old. I was told that I was too slow, didn’t have a strong arm and didn’t have power, but I got an opportunity and I worked the rest of it out. I out-worked people, out-hustled people, and had more determination. You have to prepare yourself right and the rest will take care of itself. You set your mind right and winning will fall into place and there is no better motivation than to win. It’s why you play the game – to win. Use this second chance opportunity in this talented league and ‘Think Big.’”
Past that, it’s not really his team or his time to shine, reminds NBC Sports‘ Craig Calcaterra: “I’m sure this will be a totally dignified affair and Rose will not be encouraged to come out onto the field to argue and otherwise draw attention to himself or anything.”
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