CINCINNATI — They were in line at the LeBlond Boys/Girls Club Thursday, waiting for lunch--giggling, seemingly carefree youngsters, momentarily forgetting and escaping the problems of the street.
"Typical inner-city neighborhood," said Bob Wallace, the club's project director. "Low income. Lots of high-density projects. Considerable drug use and sale. High crime rate."
Pete Rose will fulfill part of his community service obligation next year at LeBlond, during summer, when school is out.
After pleading guilty to two counts of filing false income tax returns, Rose was sentenced Thursday to five months in a federal correctional institution, followed by a year of supervised release, including three months in a halfway house and 1,000 hours of community service at LeBlond and specified schools.
Judge S. Arthur Spiegel, in his sentencing report, said Rose can be an inspiration and role model to the children of the inner city, that he can encourage them to succeed with the same dedication and determination he displayed and that he can demonstrate how to learn, profit and become a better person through mistakes.
"Pete has a lot to offer, but he has to be frank and open regarding his mistakes," he said. "If you're phony, they don't care if you're Pete Rose. They'll just walk away. I mean, Pete can help these kids, and I think they can help Pete."
LeBlond, which houses a gym, swimming pool, weight room, cafeteria, arts and crafts area and recreation room, has 1,200 members. Located in what are known as the West End and Over the Rhine areas of Cincinnati, it is only about 10 miles from where Rose first achieved athletic prominence at Western Hills High School, but seems in another world contrasted with the estate Rose owns at Indian Hills.
The kids, of course, are happy that this hometown hero is coming. They don't care from where, even if it's prison, which they think he deserved.
Taxes they're not sure about, but gambling is wrong, a lot of them were saying Thursday.
Tony Harris, an 11-year-old would-be pitcher and second baseman, was typical.
"He should have known better," Harris said of Rose. "He should have known you have to follow the law. It don't make any sense. Why would he do the wrong thing when he was making all that money in baseball? Maybe he can tell us about it."
That and more.
"He'll probably show us how to hit home runs," Harris added, beaming at the thought.