Jimmy Rollins Wins 2014 Roberto Clemente Award
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SAN FRANCISCO – Two veteran standouts who’ve become iconic for their 16 and 15 years playing for a single team have become the first co-winners of Major League Baseball’s annual Roberto Clemente Award for service to their communities.
First baseman Paul Konerko of the Chicago White Sox and Jimmy Rollins of the Philadelphia Phillies were honored Friday for their contributions both on and off the field, including sportsmanship and community involvement.
Our careers have been during the same time … and I respect the way he’s always played the game,” Konerko said. “I kinda think it’s a good way to do it because you have somebody to go along with you for the ride.”
Konerko, who just retired after 18 major league seasons – 16 with the White Sox – was cited for the work he and his wife have done with “Children’s Home + Aid” in Chicago, finding homes for foster children.
He told USA TODAY Sports that staying in one place for such a long time made it much easier for him to give back to the community that supported him.
“In ’06, I had just signed to come back for five years, so I knew I was going to be back for at least that amount of time,” Konerko said. “That makes you want to sink your teeth in more because you know, okay, I’m committed to being here.”
A six-time American League All-Star, Konerko finished his career with a .279 average, 1,412 RBI and 439 career home runs, 432 of them with the White Sox (second-most in team history behind Hall of Famer Frank Thomas).
He also was a key part of the 2005 World Series championship team.
Rollins spent his entire career with the Phillies and also won a World Series ring in 2008.
He has worked for years with various organizations benefiting children, and most recently his Rollins Family Foundation, which works to help feed families of at-risk and needy youth in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.
Rollins said the Clemente Award for his community service – similar to his three All-Star appearances, four Gold Gloves and the 2007 National League MVP award – wasn’t ever a goal for him.
“You don’t go out there with the mindset of ‘I’m going to do this to win.’ It just happens,” he said.
This season, Rollins set the Phillies career record for hits – finishing the season with 2,306.
“I haven’t reflected on it,” he said. “I haven’t watched the ceremony. I think it’s too much to watch at this point. Even when it happened, it’s like, ‘OK, that’s cool, but can we just play baseball?'”
“It was a moment in passing, for now. When I’m done, I’ll be able to reflect back on all those things, but that’s down the road.”
Looking ahead to the Phillies next season, Rollins wasn’t ready to offer up any ways the team could improve.
“Gotta ask (general manager) Ruben (Amaro),” he said. “That’s a question for him. I’m an employee. That question is for him. They have the scouts. They have the numbers. They know what the weaknesses, what the strengths, what needs to be filled. Anyone can speculate, but the way the game is today … they know what it is, and who can fill that role.”
Unlike Konerko, Rollins said he isn’t close to retiring.
“Obviously I can’t play forever, I’ll be 36 going into next season, so the goal is to get to 40 or 41,” he said.
“As long as you’re healthy and you’re on the field, you’re going to be able to accomplish some pretty cool things.”