“It’s a pretty good view.”
Those were the first words of Scott Rolen’s Hall of Fame speech as the third baseman who spent 17 years in Major League Baseball looked out on the crowd at the 2023 National Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Sunday afternoon in Cooperstown.
They were an apt summation for a man who made it to the mountaintop of his sport, as Rolen joined Fred McGriff as a member of the Hall of Fame Class of 2023.
Rolen began his speech by thanking his family in attendance which included his parents, wife Niki, daughter Raine and son Finn.
He also thanked the baseball writers who elected him in his sixth year of eligibility. The 10.2% of the vote Rolen received in his first year on the ballot is the lowest of any player who eventually made it to the Hall of Fame.
“At no point in my lifetime did it ever occur to me that I would be standing on this stage, but I’m glad it occurred to you because this is unbelievably special,” he said.
Standing in front of more than 40 living Hall of Famers in attendance, Rolen was left humbled by being included in such distinguished company.
“This, on this stage, is baseball greatness,” Rolen said. “It won’t occur to me any time soon that I will feel a sense of belonging with this group. But today, gentlemen, I am truly honored to be on this stage with all of you.”
One of the greatest fielding third basemen of all time, Rolen won eight Gold Gloves in a career that saw him play for the Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals, Toronto Blue Jays and Cincinnati Reds.
He was a seven-time All-Star, the 1997 National League Rookie of the Year, recorded 2,077 hits, 316 home runs and 1,287 RBI and won a World Series title with the Cardinals in 2006.
But Rolen’s favorite big league memory was his first, as he recalled seeing his parents in the stands for his first game in the majors on Aug. 1, 1996.
“The greatest moment of my career happened that day,” he said. “Seeing mom and dad walk to their seats from my position at third base was a feeling never topped again in my 17 years.”
While Rolen was undoubtedly proud of his on-field accomplishments, his speech focused more on the role his upbringing in Jasper, Indiana played on his career, especially the guidance and love he received from his family.
“Baseball was my career but it is not my story,” Rolen said. “My story begins and ends with the people sitting in front of me. My role models lived in the same house as me.”
It was the kind of respect and humility that endeared him to so many fans, with scores of them in attendance at the Clark Sports Center.
Chris Setter, Diane Setter, Mary Bates and Paula Bruce, all Cincinnati Reds fans, were in the crowd sporting Cincinnati Reds hats and t-shirts that read “Scott Freakin’ Rolen”.
“We Googled them and they came up on Etsy and we couldn’t resist,” Diane said.
“We wanted matching t-shirts, something to do with Scott, but then we knew we wanted to represent Cincinnati as well, the Reds, so it works out,” Bates added.
The foursome decided to make their first trip to the Hall of Fame once they found out their favorite player was going to be enshrined.
“He’s our favorite player of all time so [Mary] said, ‘If he makes it, we’re going,’” Diane said. “He made it and here we are.”
Jenny Orsman from St. Louis was also making her first trip to the Hall of Fame to see her favorite player from her favorite team.
“I’m a huge Scott Rolen fan and always have been and I was really excited,” she said.
She even has a small but meaningful connection to Rolen from a game she attended in September of 2006.
“He was coming in from the infield and actually threw me a ball which was really awesome,” Orsman said. “I had been a huge fan prior to that but that was pretty cool.”
Rolen said the best piece of advice he ever got came from his father when he was in high school. Strangely enough, it came in the context of basketball, not baseball.
When Rolen expressed concerns about not being ready to play in a basketball all-star game, his father told him to focus not on what he couldn’t do, but what he could do.
After Rolen explained the things he could do — hustle and effort being at the top of the list — his father replied, “Well, do that then.”
“‘Well, do that then,’ put me on this stage today,” Rolen said.
Rolen closed his speech with a literal cap tip, taking out a hat emblazoned with the Hall of Fame’s logo and saluting his friends, family and everyone who helped him on the road to Cooperstown.
“It’s a pretty good view.”