Rollins returns home for Opening Day

Former NL MVP Award winner grew up idolizing Oakland outfielder Henderson

Rollins returns home for Opening Day

OAKLAND -- Jimmy Rollins' first Opening Day start with the White Sox marks the shortstop's 16th overall. But starting in Oakland, Rollins' hometown, has a little extra meaning for the veteran.

It's also the place where Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson established himself over 14 seasons as one of the more dynamic presences in the game's history. Henderson was in attendance Monday for a 4-3 White Sox victory, during which Rollins singled, drove in a run and scored a run.

Rollins' RBI single

"That was my favorite player to this day," the 37-year-old Rollins said. "I've got to meet him a number of times and talk to him. Hounded him for about five years and finally got a jersey. It's going up on my wall in about two weeks.

"He was entertaining. Obviously he was a baseball player because he put on a uniform. ... Him being an entertainer, popping the collar, ran to left field, the way he would snatch the ball on a routine fly ball, the way he would steal and mess with the pitchers.

"Other times he wouldn't steal, doing the walking lead and I couldn't take my eyes off him and I liked that value. The field is full of baseball players when the game is going on, but he brought that extra entertainment package."

Rollins had a similar awe-inducing effect on White Sox teammates Tim Anderson and Tyler Saladino, who knew of his Most Valuable Player Award-winning status when the switch-hitter arrived on a Minor League deal. There was plenty to learn from and watch with Rollins and his young charges, but they are working for the same common goal as they take the field Monday night.

There's just a special side note for Rollins, who is a .182 hitter over eight previous games in Oakland.

"The very first time I came here, just being back, that was pretty special," Rollins said. "You want do something special. Family, cousins, everybody's coming out; haven't had a chance to see me play since I was in high school.

"After that, just doing the job and coming up playing baseball, trying to win. Wanted to do something special always -- just getting a hit is special enough, like, 'Ok, I got the hit.' That's the pressure. But whether you get a hit or not, if your team wins, everybody's happy and that's the goal is to come out with the victory and go on to the next day."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.