By Mike Radano
Jimmy Rollins worked his way through the crowd with a broad smile on his face.
Rollins has been known for many things in his time with the Phillies, and the smile is just one small part of his persona. It goes far beyond the way he plays the game, which is built on athleticism that includes being one of the top defensive shortstops in the game. It goes beyond Rollins’ natural instincts and his total understanding of the game that he has made his profession.
Rollins has ingratiated himself to the Phillies’ fan base — not only by his actions on the field, but also certainly by his actions off it, and Monday was a perfect example.
Given a rare off-day in the middle of a homestand, Rollins spent his day first on the Ben Franklin Parkway attempting to hit the longest ball on record and then, arrived at the Lucky Strikes Lanes in Center City, where he hosted the Sixth Annual Basebowl Tournament to raise money and awareness for both the Jimmy Rollins Foundation and the Arthritis Foundation.
“I don’t really have a personal connection, but a couple years ago when I had some soreness in my elbow,” said Rollins, fresh off a 4-for-4 effort against Oakland at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday afternoon. “There were some days where I could do my drills and others that I couldn’t. Fortunately for me, it passed but for those that have arthritis, including an unbelievable amount of kids, it’s hard to imagine what they go through on a daily basis.
“My pain made me really sit down and think about what someone with arthritis has to go through. Mine was temporary. Their pain is not.”
According to the Arthritis Foundation website, the three forms of arthritis are rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and juvenile arthritis. While raising both money and awareness for all forms, Rollins appeared most affected by juvenile arthritis, “an umbrella term used to describe the many autoimmune and inflammatory conditions that can develop in children ages 16 and younger.”
Arthritis typically affects joints — the word “arthritis” literally means joint inflammation: arth (joint) and itis (inflammation) — but JA can involve the eyes, skin and gastrointestinal tract as well.
Fittingly, Rollins brought out a team that has long banded together both on and off the field and has a long tradition of attending charity functions. Along with Rollins, the event was attended by starting pitchers Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt, as well everyday players Shane Victorino, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley.
Rollins was also able to gather items for a silent auction that included signed jerseys from Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Utley, a signed bat by Howard and an autographed mitt from catcher Carlos Ruiz. Beyond his teammates, items from Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols, Giants closer Brian Wilson and golfer Tiger Woods were some of the many items up for bid.
“It’s always good to support each other and this is for a very good cause,” Utley said. “I think it definitely helps us on the field that we are supportive of each other off the field. It leads to a good vibe inside the clubhouse, and we take that on the field with us.
“This is a great charity. You learn so much from each of these events that you can’t help but want to lend your support. Jimmy’s doing a great job here.”
“This is just an extension of who we are as a team,” Rollins said. “You really learn who you like and who you don’t like over the course of a season. Who has your back and who doesn’t. You know that inside the clubhouse, but you also understand it through support outside of it and these are the guys you are going to war with each day.
“We have a whole bunch of warriors on our time and it’s who we are as a team. The support comes without question and that’s been a part of our success.”
In the end, the Phillies have in many ways accepted their role in the city by the actions of the organization, which has time and time again proven to be a friend of Philadelphia and the causes that lie within. Several weeks ago, the club held its annual Phillies Phestival, which has raised over $12.7 million since 1984 for ALS research.
“It really does make me proud,” Phillies president David Montgomery said. “It’s a great challenge to have when we see a schedule and we have six or seven off-days during the year in a homestand that we know our players want for their charity. Jimmy has his, Chase has his, we have ours and I can go on and on. Our players truly care about the community and that’s such a big part of who we are and I can’t say enough about the type of individuals we have on this team.”
Mike Radano is a contributor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.