Fireside chat with Rolen
Five minutes with most ballplayers is about what you need to figure out most of what makes them tick. At least for the purposes of a baseball writer. Five minutes of shoptalk does it for most people, when you get to thinking about it.
But five minutes with Scott Rolen leaves you thinking you could spend a good long time talking to this guy and only scratch the surface. Rolen is razor-sharp - no backing him into any conversational corners - but softens any easy scores with an open and laidback way.
I asked him today about his oft-operated on left shoulder and he winced just slightly as he sipped his morning coffee. "Shoulder's no problem at all. Probably not even a topic of conversation at this point," he said with a significant look.
Until I see him screaming in pain and reaching up to his shoulder and screaming "My &%$# shoulder!", I will not be asking Scott Rolen about his shoulder again.
The easy back-and-forth of Rolen's banter is probably the result of being the son of a pair of teachers and his fondness for reading - something that writers in Philadelphia and St. Louis have hooked onto and used to define him. I'm not sure if your passtimes declare who you are, but in this case I think it might be fair to say reading - and by extension, learning and self-exploration - give you a great insight into Rolen.
Right now, he's making his way through Upton Sinclair's ode to the working-class, 'The Jungle'. "I don't know why that one escaped me up till now?" Rolen said of the book. "It's one of the ones everybody reads in high school."
I nodded politely, having never read it (but felt pathetically proud of myself for at least knowing it was Sinclair who wrote it when he mentioned the title).
Watching Rolen play yesterday in the intra-squad, it's pretty clear the fans are going to love this guy. He plays the sandlot like it's the World Series. Having my first one-on-one with him today makes it clear he's going to be a treat for reporters to talk to all year long. But I'll spend the moments before our next encounter dusting off my Dostoyevski and Garcia-Marquez references.