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'Charlie Hustle' comes to Bridgeport

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This one is a match made in heaven:

One party has baseball in his veins, and is desperate to re-connect with the game that made him a household name and hero to millions. The other is a struggling franchise, desperate to get paid fannies in the seats.

With this in mind, the Bridgeport Bluefish announced yesterday that Pete Rose, Major League Baseball's all-time leader who was banished for life when he admitted he bet on baseball games while managing the Cincinnati Reds, will “manage” the 'Fish on Monday, June 16, when Bridgeport entertains the Lancaster Barnstormers at 7:05 p.m.

Now, how much “managing” Rose will actually do is a matter of conjecture as he has virtually no working knowledge of either the players on “his” team or on the Barnstormers. Bluefish manager Willie Upshaw will certainly be pulling the strings during the game. But the very fact that someone as famous (some might argue infamous) as Rose will be at the Ballpark at Harbor Yard—dressed in a Bluefish uniform, no less—is sure to bring excitement to the Park City.

“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 Bluefish general manager Ken Shepard.

Well, that might be a stretch, but for a team that hasn't played a postseason in game since 2011, when they lost a one-game play-in to the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, having a name as big as Rose sitting on the home bench is, indeed, exciting.

“I’m doing this because I love baseball,” said 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. Guys like Chris Sabo, Kurt Stillwell and Eric Davis. I love coaching young players.”

Rose played 24 seasons in the Majors with the Cincinnati Reds, Philadelphia Phillies, and Montreal Expos. He is the all-time MLB leader with 4,256 hits, 3,562 games played, and 14,053 at-bats. Rose was named National League Rookie of the Year in 1963, National League MVP in 1973, earmed Gold Glove awards in 1969 and 1970, and a Silver Slugger award in 1981. In addition, he appeared in 17 MLB All-Star Games at five different positions (1B, 2B, 3B, LF, & RF), and won three World Series rings (with the Reds 1975 amd ’76, and with the Phillies in 1980).

Following what was a Hall-of-Fame career based on merit (Rose is also permanently banned from the Hall of Fame barring some sort of divine intervention by the powers that be in the future), he went on to manage the Reds for five seasons, and had a respectable 412-373 record (.525) as Reds skipper.

While rumors persisted concerning Rose's gambling habits, then-Commissioner Peter Ueberroth had a cursory investigation done, then dropped the issue. After Ueberroth handed the baton over to Bart Giamatti, the new commissioner re-opened the Rose investigation immediately, and named John M. Down as the special investigator.

He was banned from any association with Major League Baseball as well as any of its affiliates for life when it was determined that Rose had bet on baseball games involving the Reds while managing the the team in 1987. No evidence has ever been produced that Rose bet against his own team, but Dowd has gone on record as saying Rose “probably bet against the Reds while managing them.”

While this lifetime exclusion applies to all Major League Baseball teams and their minor league affiliates, it has no bearing whatsoever on independent league teams.

Rose's essential function (besides attracting curious fans) will be to act as a one-game mentor to Bluefish players trying to get back into organized baseball.

“I will tell each of the players in the clubhouse a few things before the game,” added Rose. “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,” continued Rose, who was coined “Charlie Hustle” for his frenetic style of play. “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 [i.e., the Atlantic League] and 'Think Big.'”

First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m., with gates opening at 6:05 p.m. The Bluefish will honor Rose’s number 14, by selling all Box and Reserved tickets for $14. A special meet-and-greet package with Pete Rose is also available. Tickets and more information regarding the meet-and-greet package are available by visiting the Bluefish ticket office, calling (203) 210-BLUE, or going to www.bridgeportbluefish.com.

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