Pete Rose stands for the national anthem during a game at The Ballpark at Harbor Yard, Monday, June 16, 2014, in Bridgeport, Conn. Rose, banned from Major League Baseball, returned to the dugout for one day to manage the independent minor-league Bridgeport Bluefish. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Photo submitted Robby Hisert, left, pitching coach Pat Ahearne, middle, and Pete Rose answer questions during a press conference Monday in Bridgeport, Conn. Hisert, from Amsterdam, coaches for the Bridgeport Bluefish, which had Rose serve for Monday's game as the team's manager.
Photo submitted Robby Hisert, left, and Pete Rose stand along the dugout of the Bridgeport Bluefish Monday in Bridgeport, Conn. Hisert, from Amsterdam, coaches for the Bluefish, which had Rose serve for Monday's game as the team's manager.
By MICHAEL KELLY
Robby Hisert knew coaching in Monday's game for the Bridgeport Bluefish of the independent Atlantic League was going to be an interesting experience.
With baseball legend Pete Rose -- famous for being the all-time hits leader in Major League Baseball, and infamous for his gambling-related lifetime ban from MLB -- serving as the squad's manager for its home game against the Lancaster Barnstormers in Bridgeport, Conn., Hisert had said he was prepared for anything.
That's why the Amsterdam High School graduate and area resident had no problem allowing Rose to take his spot coaching first base at the game's start. Hisert also had no issue with relieving Rose at the start of the sixth inning, so the baseball icon could retreat from the heat to the dugout for the rest of Bridgeport's 2-0 win.
"But what I wasn't prepared for was the fans chanting 'We want Pete,' at me and telling me to get off the field," Hisert said Tuesday, laughing.
But it was all in good-natured fun, as most of the approximately 4,500 fans in attendance at the game were there to see Rose and not Hisert, a pair separated by -- only -- 4,256 hits in MLB action.
Hisert is in his second season coaching first base for the Bluefish, and the Amsterdam native -- who also coaches at Southern Vermont College -- had looked forward to the chance to work with Rose for the game. While the day had what Hisert described as a "spring-training" feel to it because of the surrounding media circus, Hisert said he thought he gained a lot from the experience.
"We were picking his brain and he was picking ours," said Hisert. "You could tell [his] was a baseball mind that worked."
Rose met with fans before the game, but he was able to join the Bluefish during batting practice. Hisert said the 73-year-old was a hands-on coach from the start, offering tips to hitters preparing for the game and continuing with that during the contest.
Hisert said the best part of the experience was getting to talk shop with Rose in the dugout. As a young coach -- besides working with the Bluefish and SVC, Hisert also gives hitting lessons to area youths -- Hisert said the chance was one he could not pass up.
"I'm trying to learn, and I got the opportunity to talk to him a lot," said Hisert. "The whole game, we were just talking baseball."
Rose had a sense of humor about himself, too, Hisert said. The former AHS star said Rose declined to wear a full uniform, instead wearing his own pants and shoes to go along with a Bluefish uniform top. Initially, the club asked Rose to reconsider and wear the full uniform, to which he jokingly replied that he was "old enough" to get away with just the top.
"He kept it light and loose," said Hisert. "What I took away from it is this: Here's this baseball legend, in two ways. He's banned and there's a reason for that, and he's also a legend for what he did on the field -- but he's still just one of the guys."
Hisert said there were not many questions posed to Rose during the day about his ban from MLB. But while that topic came up sparingly, Hisert did bring up to the legend that he had once written a high school paper on the subject.
Hisert's take was a pro-Rose one.
"He said I definitely should have gotten higher than a 'C,'" Hisert said, again laughing.
Follow MICHAEL KELLY on Twitter at twitter.com/RecorderMK
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Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.