Aaron's contributions have Rollins in awe

Aaron's contributions have Rollins in awe

MIAMI -- Of course Jimmy Rollins knew Hank Aaron.

Aaron is one of the greatest players in baseball history, and Rollins has an appreciation for the history of the game. Rollins knew his talents, his records and his struggles as he pursued and ultimately broke Babe Ruth's all-time home run record.

But that Aaron knew Rollins when they had a chance to talk last year?

"It's kind of intimidating," Rollins said this week at Sun Life Stadium. "You know who you are. You know who he is. And everybody else knows who you are, but you're like, 'He doesn't know who I am.' But they pay attention. The old timers pay attention. That's the cool thing."

Aaron will be honored Saturday during the Beacon Awards as part of this weekend's Civil Rights Game festivities in Atlanta.

"He's one of the best to ever play," Rollins said. "Had he been in a big press town, he could have had the hype. Hank was just down there [in Atlanta] doing his thing."

Rollins sat back in the chair in front of his locker and reflected on the career numbers of players like Aaron, Willie Mays and Jackie Robinson.

CRG 2011 Include

They're almost not real to him.

"They couldn't have been this good," Rollins said, shaking his head and smiling. "There's no way in the world they were this good for that long. But they didn't have a choice. They had to constantly produce. Every single day, it was on the line. Fortunately today, we don't have that added part of every day everything being on the line. America has changed somewhat. So the extra pressures, we don't face that. Every day, they had to show up. We have to show up, too. But they had to show up more. They had to show up in different ways. It wasn't just playing baseball."

Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard met Aaron in 2006, when he won the Hank Aaron Award for being voted by fans as the National League's best offensive player.

"The whole experience was great, being around somebody like that, knowing what he's done for the game," Howard said.

Howard has a photo with Aaron and Derek Jeter, who was honored as the American League's top offensive player that year. Howard's father, Ron, has the photo in his office back home in Missouri.

Aaron and Howard's father were both born in Alabama.

"That was pretty cool for him," Howard said of the Alabama connection. "My parents got to watch him play."

The Phillies and Braves will be wearing replica Negro League uniforms for Saturday's game.

"That's definitely going to be cool, too," Howard said. "To be able to wear the Philadelphia Stars' uniforms will be great."

"He was tremendous for baseball," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said of Aaron. "He was a mild-mannered guy. He came to the park to play. He did his job every day, and he produced. He had a long career. He was a lot more than a home run hitter. He had a great arm. He had speed. Not only that, but from a leadership standpoint, he set a great example for everybody."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.