By Dennis Schlossman
Many fans of Major League Baseball show their support for their favorite player or team by wearing jerseys or caps, going to the ballpark, or sitting on the edge of their seat in front of the television.
What most fans don’t see is the player behind the uniform.
Granted, most players who sign the larger contracts are persuaded into donating to a certain charity in some shape or form; but a select few have the passion to go out of their way to make the world a better place for a number of special people.
One such player is Jimmy Rollins of the Philadelphia Phillies.
Rollins, a native of Oakland, California, has become one of the premier shortstops in Major League baseball and is a key component in the Philadelphia Phillies’ success.
Rollins was a second round selection by the Phillies in the 1996 June draft. He began rookie ball in Martinsville, and quickly worked his way through the Phillies farm system.
He played his first game in a Phillies uniform on September 17, 2000, making the start at shortstop.
Rollins is perhaps best known for his base-running skills, having stolen 20 or more bases every season since 2001, with a career-high of 47 in 2008.
Rollins was named the 2007 National League Most Valuable Player and has been named to the National League All-Star team three times (2001, 2002, & 2005).
J-Roll became the first player in the history of Major League Baseball to collect at least 200 hits, 15 triples, 25 homers, and 25 stolen bases in one season, and holds the record for most at bats in a season with 716.
Rollins owns the longest hitting streak in Philadelphia Phillies history at 38 games, achieved from August 2005 to April 2006. His streak is the longest in the majors since 1987, when Paul Molitor hit safely in 39 consecutive games; and the longest in the National League since Pete Rose’s 44-game streak in 1978. It is currently the eighth-longest streak in Major League Baseball history.
Outside of owning a record label, dedicating time to his family, and his obligation to the Phillies, Rollins still finds a huge amount of time to assist with charities and give back to the community.
In 2008, he created the Rollins Family Foundation…a 501 c3 foundation.
Also in 2008, Rollins campaigned for United States presidential candidate Barack Obama and introduced Senator Joe Biden and his wife at a rally in South Philadelphia.
In August of 2009, Rollins hosted his fourth annual Celebrity BaseBOWL Tournament, which benefits the Rollins Family Foundation and the Eastern Pennsylvania Arthritis Foundation.
In 2004, he served as an Honorary Chairman for Easter Seals. In 2003, he also served as an Honorary Chairman for the Negro Leagues Baseball Memorial Fund, which sculpted a statue to honor Philadelphia’s Negro League players.
In addition, Rollins has appeared in Public Service Announcements for Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner cities).
One particular story that stands out for many occurred in 2009, when Rollins teamed up with ESPN to make a dream come true for Shaquille Jacobs of Greensboro, NC, as part of ESPN’s “My Wish” segment special.
Jacobs played baseball his entire childhood, and baseball was truly one of his greatest passions.
Jacobs was always seeking to improve his abilities, whether it was spending extra time at the batting cages, working with his father on base-running skills, diligently studying film or watching countless games on TV.
It’s worth mentioning that his favorite baseball hero and role model is none other than, Jimmy Rollins.
During his 10th-grade year at Grimsley High, Jacobs suddenly became ill and was diagnosed with life-threatening leukemia.
He couldn’t walk at all and endured what seemed like constant pain and suffering.
He lost 35 pounds and needed to get a port in his chest in order to sustain countless chemotherapy sessions.
The fight for his life became a miraculous success, and the leukemia eventually went into remission. But one thing that stayed with Jacobs during this entire experience was his love for the game of baseball.
Upon hearing Jacobs’ story, Rollins and ESPN were quick to step up to the plate to make a special dream come true.
As if Jacobs wasn’t thrilled enough to make the trip to the Sunshine State to watch his hero and favorite team, there was much more to follow.
Rollins met Jacobs at the stadium, and as he greeted him, presented Jacobs with a personalized Phillies game jersey and cap.
Rollins then gave him a tour of the dugout and clubhouse, introducing him to manager Charlie Manuel. In the tunnel, he met and chatted with Phillies sluggers Ryan Howard and Shane Victorino.
J-Roll took him onto the field and passed the ball around while the Phils got loose for the upcoming game, and in the process he met and spoke with Atlanta Braves star Chipper Jones.
Before the start of the game, Jacobs had an opportunity to showcase his hitting skills in the batting cage, and Rollins willingly provided a few words of advice on his batting technique.
For the game, Jacobs had a bird’s-eye view in the dugout where several players shared insights and answered questions about how the game was played at the professional level. It was truly a day to remember for Shaquille Jacobs.
After overcoming his tremendous ordeal, Jacobs graduated from Grimsley High School with honors, and was accepted into North Carolina AT&T where he majors in chemistry and plans on trying out for the school baseball team.
Jimmy Rollins not only represents himself as a tremendous humanitarian to the game of baseball, but also to life in general. Many players at the professional level take on community and charity work for exposure and notoriety, but it’s not really about personal gain for Rollins.
He is extremely grateful for the talent and opportunities with which he is blessed, and has the desire to give back as much as he possibly can. Not only is he a role-model for youngsters around the world, but he sets an example for other players throughout Major League Baseball.
With is amazing ability, talent, personality, humility and kindness, Jimmy Rollins is the epitome of what every baseball player inspires to be.