Prior to taking the field at Citizens Bank Park for the first time since the Phillies traded Jimmy Rollins to the Dodgers, the veteran shortstop was informed that autograph seekers would be ubiquitous.
"Tell me about it," Rollins said.
The greatest shortstop in the long, mostly undistinguished history of the Phillies took considerable time from batting practice to sign for fans. Rollins inked baseballs, caps and even a pair of bases, one from the last game at Veterans Stadium and the first contest at Citizens Bank Park.
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It was fitting since Rollins closed the Vet and was the catalyst for much of the greatest run in Phillies history.The Phillies all-time hit king is well aware of his place in Philadelphia baseball history.
Rollins, who is arguably on his way to the Hall of Fame, spent 15 minutesamong hundreds of fans down the third-base line.
"I wanted to give them what they wanted," Rollins said. "There's a reason they came out tonight."
The Phillies fans came to honor one of the most charismatic and talented players to sport red pinstripes. Rollins received a warm, two-minute standing ovation as he led off against Jerome Williams.
"The ovation was longer than I expected, Rollins said. "I came out, they clapped and I got back in the box."
Rollins had a single and a double for the Dodgers, who lost 6-2 to the Phillies, who are asurprising MLB best13-3 since the All Star break.
But Rollins' return transcended anything that happened on the field. It was about coming home. Rollins downplayed the return to the ballpark, where he became one of the greatest red light players of his era.
"It's just another game," Rollins insisted. "I'm not overly pumped up about it. The most difficult thing for me was finding the away clubhouse."
The Phillies all-time hit kingwas more enthusiastic when he spoke of returning to his South Jersey home.
"I cameback a day early to enjoy being home," Rollins said. "The girls kept me up but that's just what I needed."
Rollins two daughters and his wife have been home since the All-Star break. "It was so good to get back home," Rollins said. "Everything is set up but the cable there. We went swimming in our pool and hung out and it was great."
Since flying back Rollinshas beenon the down low.
"I walked as quick as I could through the airport," Rollins said.
Butall eyes were on himat his former home ballpark. The fans were thrilled to see the 2007 MVP again. Rollins was incredibly clutch during his enviable Phillies run.. Who can forget his game-winning hit against the Dodgers in the 2009 NLCS against Jonathan Broxton?Remember whenRollins nearly singlehandedly ended the Phillies lengthy playoff drought during the 2007 stretch drive?
"A lot of special things happened for me with the Phillies," Rollins said. "There's no doubt about that but I've turned the page. I'm with another team and were fighting for a division title."
Rollins, who has struggled mightily for much of the season, has been hitting the ball well after the All-Star Break.
"I just want to help my team win," Rollins said. "There's a lot of talent here. This team can win it all."
Rollins knows how to win. He proved it with the Phillies.
"And now I want to do it with the Dodgers," Rollins said. "We did a lot of winning when I was here. Lots of good things happened here. I appreciate it but I can't look back right now. I'm trying to get back to a World Series. I would love to win another one but we could have won another World Series here . But we didn't and all I can do or anyone can do in this business is keep trying."