Never say never in baseball.
On Saturday, the Bridgeport Bluefish of the independent Atlantic League announced that Pete Rose will return to the dugout to manage their team for one night only when they take on the Lancaster Barnstormers on Monday, June 16.
And yes, baseball's all-time hit king is free to do so despite being banned from Major League Baseball for his gambling indiscretions while serving as manager of the Cincinnati Reds in the late 80s. MLB bans do not apply to independent teams or leagues, so Rose could have made this a full-time gig 25 years ago if he so desired.
Now 73 years old, that obviously isn't the cards for Rose, but he seems pretty excited about his one-shot deal.
“I’m doing this because I love baseball,” says Rose. “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 ’80’s I think thirty-three 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.”
As Eye on Baseball points out, the roster Rose will handle has its share of former major leaguers. Among them are Tomo Ohka, J.R. Towles, Sean Burroughs, Ramon Castro and Joe Mather. For their sake, we hope they still have the same hunger Rose speaks of pertaining to younger players.
One thing we know for sure, general manager Ken Shepard has a lot of enthusiasm.
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,” says Shepard. “We encourage everyone to come out to the ballpark on June 16 to experience this special occasion.
Rose last managed in a big league game on Aug. 24, 1989, which was right before his ban went into place. So Shepard is right, this is a pretty big announcement, and it's obviously going to put a lot more eyes on Bridgeport on June 16 than would have been there otherwise.
It's a publicity stunt, yes, but it's an interesting one at least, and it will definitely be fun to see Rose back in his element after all of these years.
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