GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Corey Seager may have been able to offer a better description of Jimmy Rollins’ feet versus his face early in camp last year.
Though he was thrilled to share the Camelback Ranch clubhouse with one of his heroes, who was signed in part to mentor him, the Los Angeles Dodgers rookie shortstop admits he was a little intimidated by Rollins’ presence. Only 20 at the time and one of baseball’s top prospects, Seager waited several days for Rollins to introduce himself out of respect for the veteran.
Upon hearing that White Sox prospect Tim Anderson expects to be star struck when he meets Rollins -- who Monday signed a minor-league deal with the White Sox -- Seager could relate. Seager also has genuine excitement for Anderson, his 2014 Arizona Fall League teammate, and what lies ahead for him in the coming weeks with Rollins, a former National League MVP and three-time All-Star.
“I couldn’t even introduce myself to him,” Seager said. “It was that surreal that you couldn’t physically make yourself talk to him.
“I walked past him multiple times with my head down. You saw that guy on a pedestal and then he’s in your clubhouse. He’s beside you, he’s taking ground balls with you. It’s a very, very great thing.”
Seager, who eventually took over as the Dodgers’ starting shortstop late in the season, isn’t alone in his praise of Rollins. Though Rollins -- who joined Los Angeles in 2015 after 15 years in Philadelphia -- may have been frustrated by the worst offensive season of his career (.643 OPS), former teammates said he delivered on many other levels.
“He was everything that was advertised coming in,” said first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. “Great leader, great clubhouse guy, hard worker. Just had a lot of fun. He took on every role, veteran, mentor, everything.”
Third baseman Justin Turner spent four seasons with the New York Mets and had a pretty good idea about Rollins from his Phillies accomplishments alone.
A World Series winner in 2008, Rollins has produced 49.3 f-Wins Above Replacement. He won the MVP in 2007 when he scored 139 runs, had 212 hits, including 88 for extra bases, and earned the first of four Gold Glove awards.
“Just his presence alone makes everyone around him better,” Turner said.
But Turner may be even more impressed by Rollins’ work ethic and drive. And he’s certain the drive is why Rollins bypassed a chance to play at home with the San Francisco Giants, where he would have been a super utility man. Turner knows Rollins would love to win the White Sox starting job and show the rest of the league he has plenty of baseball left.
“He is still a good baseball player,” Turner said. “He still has a lot to offer and brings a lot to the table. It didn’t surprise me at all that he kind of shook off the backup stuff to be the everyday guy, and there’s no doubt in my mind he can still play shortstop every day.
“You see the work and the preparation and how they go about their business. It’s no wonder he’s accomplished everything he has.”
Seager believes he took full advantage of having Rollins in camp.
He followed him everywhere, asked questions. Seager said Rollins taught him everything, from how to act in the clubhouse to where to position himself on tags at second base. There’s also the benefit of being within close proximity of Rollins to see just how hard he works to maintain. As Seager puts it, he knows where Rollins has set the bar and what he’d need to do himself in order to reach and maintain that level.
All it took was that first introduction.
“It was weird,” Seager said. “I mean, I watched him my whole life.
“He finally came up to you and was a normal human being.
“He has put in his work, he has put in his time, he’s done that to be able to be at the level at he is still. It’s one of those things that you can take a lot from it, you can learn a lot from it. It’s all about how much you want to learn.”