CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Mike Schmidt believes Pete Rose could gain reinstatement to baseball soon.
Schmidt acknowledged Tuesday, his first day as a special hitting instructor for the Philadelphia Phillies, that he attended a meeting last November between commissioner Bud Selig and the career hits leader.
"I'm optimistic that things will happen fast enough that you might see Pete at Reds' opening day this year," Schmidt said. "I don't want to become the commissioner on this issue, but I'm optimistic."
Last week, however, a high-ranking baseball official said Selig doesn't plan to consider Rose's application for reinstatement before opening day.
The Cincinnati Reds, the team Rose played for from 1963-1978 and later managed, open their new ballpark on March 31 and Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken wrote to Selig in November, urging that Rose be reinstated by the first game in the Great American Ball Park.
Schmidt, a Hall of Famer and a teammate of Rose on the Phillies' 1980 World Series championship team, attended the Nov. 25 meeting in Milwaukee that also included Rose, manager Warren Greene, Selig and Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer.
"I'm not going to report on the exact things that were said, but Pete did meet with the commissioner and hopefully in a period of time Pete will be reinstated," Schmidt said. "I think that particular day opened the eyes of people to allow Pete an opportunity to return to baseball."
Rose agreed to a lifetime ban in August 1989 after an investigation of his gambling. Baseball investigator John Dowd detailed 412 baseball wagers in 1987, including 52 on Cincinnati to win, but Rose has repeatedly denied he bet on baseball.
Baseball officials have said Rose must admit he bet on baseball if he is ever to gain reinstatement. As long as he is banned, he is ineligible for the Hall of Fame ballot.
During the 2002 World Series, Hall of Famers Joe Morgan and Johnny Bench, teammates with Rose on the Reds' 1975 and 1976 championship teams, approached Selig about reinstating Rose.
Since the November meeting, the momentum to Rose's possible reinstatement has stalled following the revelation that the Internal Revenue Service placed a lien on a home Rose owns in the Los Angeles area, claiming $151,689 in unpaid federal taxes from 1998. Baseball officials also were surprised by reports Rose was seen last month at the Bellagio casino in Las Vegas and the sports book at Caesars Palace.
Schmidt thinks Rose will stay out of further trouble if his ban from baseball is lifted.
"He won't have the free time to travel around," Schmidt said. "He won't be doing card shows. He'll be back doing what he has a passion to do and what he does best - and that's be involved in baseball in some way."
Schmidt talks with Rose on the phone every few weeks, and said Rose most wants to work in baseball, not get into the Hall of Fame.
"Pete knows he's got a Hall of Fame career, but becoming a Hall of Famer is not the No. 1 priority of Pete Rose," Schmidt said. "He really wants to be a manager."
Schmidt is confident that Rose will be back in baseball very soon, though.
"I know, based on the conversations that we had, the commissioner is very much interested in allowing Pete Rose to return to baseball," he said.
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