The headline took me by surprise. And then it made me sad. “Infielder Jimmy Rollins reaches minor league deal with White Sox.” Jimmy Rollins? JRoll?
The Associated Press reported this morning that Jimmy Rollins had taken a minor league contract with the White Sox, essentially a try out for the big league team. If he can prove that he still has what it takes, he will find himself playing part-time and mentoring the younger infielders. Reading between the line, one can see that the Sox hope to use him as “the straw that stirs the drink”, a title he gave himself during his leadership days with the Phillies – if he makes the 40 man squad.
When Rollins arrived in the majors sixteen seasons ago, he brought his West Coast swagger to Philadelphia. With his then signature braids and wide gap-toothed smile, young James won the hearts of many Phillies fans. He was a key part of the best infield they had seen in pinstripes in a long time. Teaming up with Chase Utley to become the longest reigning middle infield in the game during their tenure with the Phils, they reunited last season in Los Angeles to add more games to that record.
But even in Dodger blue, Jimmy was still ours. It was evident in his return to Citizens Bank Park last season. I made sure to have a ticket for festivities. When he strolled up for his first at bat, the crowd hailed him as a returning hero. I’m sure that the bat wasn’t the only thing choked up that night. He was, and is, and always will be, our Jimmy.
Not only was Rollins an integral piece of the team that brought winning back to Philadelphia, but he piled up personal achievements as well. Holding many team records, including being the all-time hits leader, he cut out his place in the Phillies history book. He is an NL MVP, three time All Star, four time Gold Glove Shortstop, and World Series Champion. He is forever imprinted in our collective memory as perhaps the greatest shortstop to wear the red and white. He was a huge part of my greatest memories at the ballpark – the nearly perfect double play combination with Chase, the game winning hits, the flying catches, and taking the 2008 World Series. He was having great fun playing and he was great fun to watch.
And so this is why this headline made me sad. Is JRoll truly at the end of his career or can he squeeze some more good baseball out of his 37 year old body? I don’t want to watch the decline. I don’t want to see an MVP player like him fade away in the minors. If I had my “druthers”, I druther see him get that one-day contract with the Phillies and hang up his spikes here in Philly. The City of Brotherly Love would open its arms to our little brother and send him off like the champion that he is.
I will be at that game. I will be at the ballpark when they unveil his plaque on the Wall of Fame. I will be there to remember and cheer and, perhaps, choke up a little.