CINCINNATI — Regardless of whether Pete Rose heard cheers or boos, he enjoyed playing in front of fans.
As the Cincinnati Reds open the season Friday night against the Detroit Tigers at Great American Ball Park, the lack of spectators will be evident due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rose, with 4,256 career hits from 1963-86, said the empty seats will be an adjustment for Major League Baseball teams during this 60-game regular season.
The only chatter around MLB ballparks will be between the players this summer.
"Players like fans," Rose told WCPO last week. "Players feel appreciated if there is fans in the stands, and it's going to be odd for them. But some of them will get through it, and some of them won't. Some of them will really excel, and some of them won't. It's just a matter of how you feel about the fans and not having any fans there."
The Hit King said he always has appreciated Cincinnati fans, but he also gathered motivation as a player from Crosley Field and Riverfront Stadium.
"I was one of those guys where I used to feed off the opposition because I got booed so much on the road," Rose said. "And the louder they boo you, the more you want to shut them up."
Rose believes the Reds could jump out to a successful start if the middle relief pitching is consistent during the first few weeks of the season.
"Well, first of all, if you look at their roster offensively they've got a good unit, and starting pitching-wise they have probably one of the best pitching staffs in the league," Rose said. "But you still got to go out and play the game."
He is optimistic the Reds could start the season with a 10-3 record or thereabouts given their schedule, which includes the first seven games at GABP.
"And once you start off like that, it's going to be hard to catch you," he said.
Former Reds pitcher Tom Browning is also confident in what the club can accomplish in a shortened season.
"I think it's a sprint now," Browning said. "I think that's a little bit exciting, it's a little bit nerve-wracking, because every game means something now."
Each game also will be unique for the rule changes — namely the universal designated hitter and the runner on second base to start extra innings.
University of Akron baseball coach and former Reds third baseman Chris Sabo doesn't mind the universal DH this season.
Sabo coached using the DH in the minors and now with Akron. The American League has used the DH rule since 1973.
"It doesn't bother me," he said. "I just wish they would do one way or another and just keep it that way. The DH has been around so long now."
Browning, who played with the Reds from 1984-94, enjoyed having the opportunity as a pitcher to step to the plate.
He still prefers the National League without the DH rule because of the strategy of the game.
"I just hope that it doesn't carry over to next year and the rest of baseball," Browning said. "I'm a National League guy."
Browning and Sabo gave the extra innings rule the benefit of the doubt for this unique season.
Rose doesn't understand the change, which allows a runner to start at second base in the 10th inning.
"You know, to be honest with you, I'm tired of the last 10 years or so baseball changing the rules every year," Rose said. "You can't throw inside, you can't break up a double play, you can't collide with a catcher. I mean, you know what's next? They have a clock running. You got to throw the ball by the time the clock runs out. I'm just totally against changing any rules of baseball."
Rose said baseball is unique for the sport that it is and adding extra rules doesn't equal fan entertainment value.
"I thought the game was pretty good in 1869," Rose said. "I thought the game was pretty good in 1969. Why are we going to change all these rules?
"Most guys in my age group would probably agree with me. It's OK to pitch inside and have a little bit of an argument now and then. Have a little fisticuffs now and then. That's good for the fans."
Although a lot is different with this MLB season, Browning is hopeful the Reds will bring a sense of familiarity back to this summer for baseball fans.
"I can promise you I'm going to try to sneak in and try to watch some of these games if they'll let me," Browning said with a smile.