Rollins reflects on career in retirement ceremony

May 5th, 2019

PHILADELPHIA -- Jimmy Rollins ran to shortstop in a Phillies jersey and cap one final time Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park.

J-Roll always had a flair for the dramatic.

He surprised and delighted Phillies fans in a memorable retirement ceremony before the Phillies’ game against the Nationals. It included a touching highlight video on Phanavision and video messages from former teammates Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. Shane Victorino, Bobby Abreu, Larry Bowa, Mike Schmidt, Charlie Manuel, Ed Wade and others, including Rollins' family, personally attended the festivities.

Rollins threw out a ceremonial first pitch to Schmidt. A few minutes later, he took a jog out to shortstop.

"Some people call me Jimmy and they say when I put on a uniform I turn into J-Roll,” Rollins said before the ceremony. “So this is a night honoring both. In my personal life, I'm very secluded. I keep a small circle and just like to blend in. Obviously, growing up in the Bay area watching Rickey Henderson, there was an entertainment [factor] when I watched him play. So I liked to bring that to the field every time I took the field, and obviously that comes with a little more dramatic version of myself.

"But for this night, the same way I came in -- Veterans Stadium, day game against the Florida Marlins, I don't know, 5,000-6,000 people in the stands maybe? It wasn't a big deal. It was just me getting to the big leagues, so I just kind of felt I should exit the exact same way.”

Yet a quiet exit really would not have been suitable for Rollins, who is one of the most impactful players in Phillies history. He played for the Phillies from 2000-14, finishing his career as the greatest shortstop in franchise history. He helped the Phillies win the '08 World Series, two National League pennants and five consecutive NL East titles. He won the '07 NL MVP Award, four Gold Gloves and one Silver Slugger Award. He also made three NL All-Star teams and is the franchise’s all-time hits leader.

He called the Phillies the “team to beat” in the NL East before the 2007 season. They were.

“I got drafted [in 1996], didn’t know much about the city,” Rollins said. “I knew Mike Schmidt. I knew Veterans Stadium. I knew it wasn’t a good-looking stadium. Not a lot of people came to the games. I told mom, 'When I get up there, we’re going to win and if we win, they’ll come.' That was the only mission I had. All the other stuff came along with being healthy and playing every day.

“If I’m there, we’re going to win. If I’m getting there, I’ll find a way to have an impact that we’ll win. That’s what I told my mom the day I got drafted. That was my only goal.”

He accomplished that goal and so much more. Phillies fans let him know how much they appreciated him Saturday. They will have the opportunity later this season to say the same to Utley and Howard, who will have their own retirement ceremonies at the ballpark.