Veteran Rolen a role model for younger Reds

April 7, 2012

CINCINNATI — Scott Rolen made an error on the second play of the season, and it was as shocking as if somebody opened a bottle of Dom Perignon and found distilled water.

It just doesn't happen, and Rolen has eight Gold Gloves in his Jasper, Ind., den to prove it.

And he proved it later in the game with at least three above-and-beyond plays, two of them of the spectacular persuasion, which is routine in Rolen's playbook.

The error? Maybe it was because Rolen was out at third base realizing that it could be the last Opening Day of his career and some rare emotion coursed through his blood. His contract expires after this season, and Rolen hints of devoting his future days to being a father and husband.

"I was emotional," he said. "Maybe I'm being nostalgic because you never know what's around the corner. This could be my last Opening Day. So I tried to soak all of it up. I looked up in the stands when the game began and saw my brother, my parents and everybody. My brother gave me a big clenched fist and I said, 'Oh,' because that kind of got to me.

"Then he (Miami's Emilio Bonifacio) bunts it to me and I kick it, so I guess emotion is a magnet in this game, isn't it? That's rare for me. Unlike most guys, right or wrong, I try to block emotion out of this game as much as I can."

If, indeed, Rolen calls it a career after this season, his presence in the clubhouse and in a Reds uniform will be missed as much as the postgame meal.

MVP Joey Votto (2010) dresses next to Rolen, and even though he has an MVP trophy and Rolen doesn't, Votto soaks up everything that emanates from Rolen.

"I still have a long way to go, a lot of work to do, things to learn," Votto said. "Rolen is a good person to learn from and be mentored by, both in communication and through watching his actions. He is a very good example."

Votto put Rolen into some exalted company by comparing him to Derek Jeter, Cal Ripken Jr., and Wade Boggs, "The old-school guys, the type of guys who I emulate and try to play like. They play every day, they play if they're hurt and still play well. Scott falls into that class, and I'm excited to say that when it's all said and done I will have played with a Hall of Famer."

Young center fielder Drew Stubbs is a lot like Rolen in that he seldom speaks unless spoken to first, but when Rolen speaks, Stubbs listens.

"He personifies what it really means to be a professional," Stubbs said. "For a guy who has done this for as long as he has (16th year) and has been as successful as he has says a lot. He grinds out every at-bat, runs out every ground ball and prepares himself every day.

"He is the perfect example of how this game should be played, and in the few years I've been here (third year) he is a guy I've tried to model my work habits and the way I play the game the way he does," Stubbs added. "He is not a guy who says a lot, but a lot of the guys take note of what he says when he does say something. And especially what he does. Having a guy like that on your team is huge when you are molding the habits of a bunch of young players."

Right fielder Jay Bruce is another who idolizes the 6-foot-4, 247-pounder who turned 37 one day before Opening Day.

"His presence, on and off the field, without even saying anything — because he doesn't say a whole lot — just solidifies this team when he is in the lineup," Bruce said. "You know you are going to get quality out of him, you know he is going to work hard and you know he will be a professional about everything. Guys on this team are starting to take after him, because he is a great guy to watch and understands how to play this game. You watch him and you listen to him and neither can hurt you."

Rolen made neither an error nor got a hit Saturday night when the Reds dropped an 8-3 decision to the Miami Marlins. Mat Latos made his Cincinnati debut for the Reds and gave up four runs and seven hits in 4 2/3 innings. It was an even worse debut for relief pitcher Alfredo Simon, who made his debut by giving up a triple (Omar Infante) and a home run (John Buck) to the first two batters he faced.

Reds rookie shortstop Zack Cozart had three hits — a triple, single and a home run, just a double shy of hitting for the cycle.