Scott Rolen poses for a photograph with his plaque during the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony at Clark Sports Center on July 23, 2023 in Cooperstown, New York. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
By Conor LIguori
World Baseball Network
COOPERSTOWN, New York – Former Major League third baseman Scott Rolen stood somewhere he never thought he would be on Sunday afternoon.
“At no point in my lifetime did I think I would be standing in front of you,” Rolen said at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown, speaking to the crowd at his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. “Today because of all your support, I am a National Baseball Hall of Famer.”
Rolen played 17 MLB seasons from 1996 to 2012 with the Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals, Toronto Blue Jays, and Cincinnati Reds. He made his MLB debut on August 1, 1996 with the Phillies, and played his last game on October 3, 2012, with the Reds.
This was Rolen’s sixth year on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot, and his name appeared on 76.3% of the ballots, only 1.3% past the 75% threshold needed for induction. He is the 18th third baseman to be voted into the Hall of Fame.
Rolen’s career accomplishments include winning National League Rookie of the Year in 1997, being selected to seven All-Star Games, winning eight Gold Gloves at the hot corner, and becoming a World Series champion in 2006 with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Rolen finished his career with 2,077 hits, 316 home runs, 1, 287 RBI, and a .281 batting average. He played every game of his career at third base and finished with a .968 fielding percentage. Rolen’s teammates at every level were blown away by his arm strength and defensive prowess.
“We had a track meet where we had to throw a softball and he could throw it from our high school softball field to the Little League field, which is probably 150, 160 yards as a seventh grader,” Andy Noblitt, a teammate of Rolen’s at Jasper High School in Indiana, told Mark Simon of SportsInfoSolutions.Com.
Todd Zeile, a former 16-year MLB veteran and Rolen’s teammate in 1996 with the Phillies believed Rolen had good timing and athleticism at third base.
“Scott, as athletic as he was at third base, had that built-in clock,” Zeile told Simon. “He would dive and sprawl and roll up and come up and throw it from weird angles but he always seemed to have that clock that would give him just enough time to get his balance, make accurate throws, and not make unforced errors.”
In an era that featured Hall of Fame pitchers in the National League like Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, and Tom Glavine, Rolen fared quite well at the plate early on in his career. In his first full season with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1997, he hit 21 home runs and had a 121 OPS+ as a 22-year-old, indicating he was 21 percent better than the average big league hitter. Rolen earned Rookie of the Year honors for his outstanding play.
His best season at the plate was in 2004 with the St. Louis Cardinals. A year in which he finished fourth in the National League for the Most Valuable Player Award behind Albert Pujols, Adrian Beltre, and Barry Bonds. That season he generated a 9.2 WAR and hit a career-high 34 home runs.
Although his terrific statistics have earned him a spot in the Hall of Fame, Rolen has not been shy to lessen his accomplishments on the field.
“I appreciate the votes,” Rolen told St. Louis Cardinals beat writer John Denton, who writes for MLB.com. “Somebody thought I was worthy of it, and I certainly appreciate that.”
Rolen shared similar thoughts during his Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony speech and expressed how honored he is to be selected.
Even under hot conditions, Rolen managed to add a sense of humor to his speech and even described his father’s wise words to, “Well, do that then.”
His father would tell him this whenever he needed encouragement and felt like he was not good enough to compete with other players in both high school basketball and throughout his baseball career. Rolen felt he was only good enough to dive for loose balls and rebound on the basketball court. “Well, do that then,” stuck with him throughout his baseball playing career to always do what he can control no matter the circumstances.
Before Rolen left the stage to a standing ovation, he made sure to emphasize how important his family is to him.
“Baseball was my career, but it was not my story,” he said during his speech. “My role models lived in the same house as me.”
Since his retirement in 2012, Rolen became the Director of Player Development for the University of Indiana baseball team in 2018, and runs The Enis Furley Foundation, a charity program he started in 1999 that helps families that struggle with illness and financial hardship.
Whether he believes it or not, Rolen paved his way into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and his name is now forever immortalized in Cooperstown.