One of Us: Jimmy Rollins

The World Series champ talks Citizens Bank Park, his disdain for sabermetrics, and why you’re likely to find him in a dance studio.

ex-phillies player jimmy rollins

Ex-Phillies player Jimmy Rollins (illustration by Andy Friedman)

Jimmy Rollins may not live in Philly these days. But he sure does have plenty to say about it.

My full name is … James Calvin Rollins II.

I was born in … Oakland, but then we moved to Alameda. You know the distance between Philly and New Jersey? Take away 90 percent, and you’ve got the distance between Oakland and Alameda.

When I was a kid, I wanted to grow up to be … a professional baseball player. My mother played softball, and I remember sitting on my dad’s shoulders watching her when I was four, thinking that’s what I wanted to do.

My best subject in high school was … history. I love learning about the past, learning why things are, why things were, and how they shape the future.

I came to Philly … straight from my parents’ house. I was a baseball vagabond, living in my parents’ house during the off-season of the minor leagues.

My first impression of Philly was … this is not California. Driving through, it was literally what you saw in Rocky. Butcher shops, meat hanging in windows. You don’t see that in California.

My title with the Phillies these days is … special adviser. Basically, I make sure all the sponsors are happy, I talk to the players, and I give upper management my opinion when they ask for it.

Nowadays, I live in … Los Angeles. I gave up my house in South Jersey in 2017, and I’ve been a legal resident of Florida since 2000, for tax reasons. When I come to games, I stay at the Logan, but I’m really wanting to get to the new Four Seasons.

Parked in my driveway, you’ll find … a Rolls-Royce. Nah, I’m just messin’. A Range Rover.

My nickname in the locker room was … “Young James.” Fans called me “J-Roll,” but “Young James” is what Ryan Howard would call me. He’d always say that and “Black don’t crack.”

One thing I don’t miss about Philly is … humid summers.

One thing I do miss is … feeling the love.

If I could change one thing about baseball today, it would be … the use of sabermetrics to evaluate who will play on which day. I am not a fan of it. The manager is in the foxhole, and he is the one that really knows what is going on. The guys upstairs? Not so much.

My worst Phillies game was … something you’ll have to ask the fans about. I’m sure they will tell you.

Winning the 2008 World Series was … a huge sense of relief and accomplishment all rolled into one. We no longer had to live under the shadow of the 1980 team. When Citizens Bank Park was being built, I told Larry Bowa that the Vet was his stadium, but that Citizens Bank Park would be the house that I built.

People would be surprised to know that … I used to play jazz trumpet. I gave it up for baseball.

I spend most of my free time … golfing and in dance studios. I have three young daughters. They love to dance.

My favorite Phillies memorabilia is … two seats from the Vet. Numbers 10 and 11. Obviously, 11 is awesome.

My parents taught me … everything. My mom taught me how to trash-talk. My dad taught me how to work hard.

I met my wife, Johari … in the Phillies’ front office, where she was on the sales team. We just celebrated our 10-year wedding anniversary in Mexico.

When I look at the country today, I think … we have a long way to go.

I am deathly afraid of failure.

Published as “One of Us: Jimmy Rollins” in the April 2020 issue of Philadelphia magazine.