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On sixth ballot, Rolen rides standout defense to Baseball Hall of Fame

Scott Rolen has been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Baseball Hall of Fame
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Baseball Hall of Fame
Scott Rolen has been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

With third baseman Scott Rolen’s election this week, the class is set for July’s induction at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown.

In December, slugger Fred McGriff was elected to baseball immortality by the Hall of Fame’s Contemporary Baseball Players Committee.  

On Tuesday, it was Scott Rolen’s turn in the limelight.  

The seven-time all-star won eight Gold Gloves at third over his 17 years in the big leagues with the Phillies, Cardinals, Blue Jays and Reds.  

In his sixth year on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot, Rolen received 297 of 389 votes — the only player from a list of 28 to reach the required 75 percent threshold.  

Induction weekend starts July 21, and Rolen says the honor is beyond his wildest dreams.  
“There was actually never a point in my life that I thought I was going to be a Hall of Fame baseball player. So we can start there,” Rolen said. “And then, you know, never did I think I was gonna get drafted and everything going to play in the Major Leagues, never gonna be whatever, you know. And then certainly, when I make the ballot, you know, it's a great honor at that time.”

Although Rolen finished with a .281 average, 316 homers and 2,077 hits, he was best known as a defensive wizard on the hot corner. The 1997 Rookie of the Year, Rolen won a World Series with the surprise 2006 Cardinals, hitting .421 in the World Series against Detroit.  

Rolen didn’t immediately know which hat he’ll wear on his plaque. But he said his time with the Phillies set him up for more success in St. Louis.  

“My six years in Philadelphia kind of taught me how to play the game. We were a little rough, we were young and I learned to really kind of hustle and play hard or it wasn’t going to work very well for you,” he said. “And you move on to St. Louis and the biggest thing about St. Louis, is that there were just seasoned professional veterans there at the time that you could really learn from overnight. It was a veteran team. It was an older team. They've been around, they've competed together for a long time, so that was a great thing in my career that I think I was ready for.”

Just the 18th third baseman to reach the Hall, Rolen was asked about his approach during an era of inflated offense.  

“I took pride in defense and base running, I thought those are two aspects that I could really contribute on a daily basis on the field is if I could get on base,” he said. “In my head, you know, when you get on base, you're trying to score a run. I mean, that's the idea. I’m trying to move around the bases in a technique that puts me in the best position for our team to score a run. And to have a good at-bat. So I would fight through it. And it was a struggle. And I'd spend a lot of time in the cage and maybe too much time and beat myself up. But defensively and base running, I felt like I contributed daily.”

Looking ahead, it was another unsettled ballot for the writers as they continue to grapple with the legacies of steroid-era greats like Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez. Rockies legend Todd Helton fell 11 votes short, while closer Billy Wagner finished with 68 percent of the vote.  

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A lifelong resident of the Capital Region, Ian joined WAMC in late 2008 and became news director in 2013. He began working on Morning Edition and has produced The Capitol Connection, Congressional Corner, and several other WAMC programs. Ian can also be heard as the host of the WAMC News Podcast and on The Roundtable and various newscasts. Ian holds a BA in English and journalism and an MA in English, both from the University at Albany, where he has taught journalism since 2013.