Turns out that 2007 wasn’t the only time Jimmy Rollins made a bold prediction and backed it up.
Shortly after being selected by the Phillies in the second round of the 1996 draft, Rollins broke out the crystal ball for his mom, GiGi.
“I got drafted, didn’t know much about the city,” Rollins said Saturday. “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.”
Well, if the little dynamo didn’t back up his words.
Eventually, the Phillies moved into beautiful Citizens Bank Park, won five straight NL East titles, two pennants and a World Series. And the people, as Rollins told his mom, came. The Phils sold out 257 straight games during their great run.
“Even when we were winning, we felt like this was an Eagles-town first,” Rollins said. “But we established that we’re right up there with the Birds and (the fans) cared about us just as much as they care about them.”
Rollins was right in the middle of all those sellouts as the team’s Gold Glove shortstop, leadoff man and predictor of big things.
A decade after his draft-day prediction to his mom, he proclaimed the Phillies the team to beat in the NL East in 2007 and with that statement ignited the best era the Phillies have ever had.
And Rollins, the NL MVP in 2007, still believes it could have been even better.
“Shoulda, coulda, woulda, but I would say we should have gotten three rings,” he said.
Rollins, the club’s all-time hits leader, was back at Citizens Bank Park in front of a roaring crowd Saturday night as the Phillies honored him with a terrific retirement ceremony. It included a highlight video that captured Rollins’ big smile, entertaining personality and electricity on the diamond.
Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, the two other big core members of the 2008 World Championship Phillies, each delivered a video salute to Rollins. Both will be honored with similar ceremonies later this season.
Rollins gave a touching speech in which he saluted his mom and dad. James Rollins Sr. was a track and field athlete and not much of a baseball player. But he learned to throw batting practice and hit ground balls to his two sons. Jimmy’s brother, Antwan, played professionally in the Texas Rangers organization.
“He made sure we’d have an opportunity to achieve our dreams and I’m thankful for that,” Rollins said of his dad.
Former Phillies officials Ed Wade and Lee Elia were on hand. Rollins thanked them, as well as former scouting director Mike Arbuckle, for their role in his development. He singled out Wade, the former general manager, for the role he had in putting together the 2008 championship team.
Charlie Manuel and Larry Bowa, two of Rollins’ managers, were on hand, as were a number of former teammates and coaches such as Milt Thompson.
Rollins thanked them all then turned his attention to the sellout crowd.
“Thank you for all of your support,” he said. “You pulled the best out of us and you pulled the best out of me. I’ll always be grateful for that.”
The fans loved Rollins back with several huge ovations. It was almost like old times.
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