At 4 o'clock Monday afternoon, Pete Rose stepped from a black Jaguar sedan and into the sunshine of freedom. His steps were light.

There are no bars or guards at the halfway house. Only opportunities. The former Cincinnati Reds star and manager walked the short walk from the Jag to the house, and what it was, was the beginning of his second chance. Forget about the rest.In the past two years, Rose has lost much. His dignity, his fortune, his career, his identity. He went from Charlie Hustle to Charlie Hustler, and the whole world watched.

Rose's financial burdens are immense, his ability to earn a suitable living unproven. Baseball is suddenly pious, and seems eager to keep Rose out of the Hall of Fame as long as he remains banned from the game.

Rose walks the walk to Talbert House in his hometown, and every step is a reminder of what he had, and what he lost. If it were blood we had wanted from Rose on Monday, we wouldn't have found much.

We don't honor ourselves by bashing Pete Rose. Not now. He has paid his fines and his debts. What's done is done, and none of it matters so much as what Rose does today and the next day and the day after that.

Because all Pete Rose really has now is a second chance. He has another shot at making things right. It is the greatest gift of his life.

It's his best opportunity, better even than playing for Fred Hutchinson in 1963. In the next several months, Rose could become as good a man as he was a ballplayer, and wouldn't that be saying something.

If he chooses, he will shine the brightest of lights on this town. He could do that here. He has 1,000 hours of community service. It's 1,000 takes at redemption, 1,000 promises to keep, 1,000 ways to show everyone not who he was, but who he has become.

We will watch him these 1,000 hours. We will see if Pete Rose holds up his end of the deal. There is much good to be done. We will see if Pete Rose is equal to the task.

"I'm trying to go on with my life," Rose said. "I'm trying to do the right thing. I hope the people will let me."