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Despite the two hoops in his Jasper, Ind., backyard, the
basketball scholarship to Georgia and the gravitational pull
exerted on his generation by the Magic-Bird-Michael era of the
NBA, Scott Rolen was born to play baseball. When Linda Rolen
asked her son how he liked his first day of kindergarten, Scott
replied, "You know, Mom, it was fun and I met a lot of kids, but
I think from now on I'm just going to stay home and play ball so
I can go to the major leagues."

As a high school senior Rolen was Mr. Baseball in Indiana, which
is like being Miss Rotary Club in Atlantic City. Then all 28
major league clubs passed on him in the first round of the 1993
draft. "Everybody figured, He's from Indiana. He's going to play
college basketball," Rolen says. The scouts should have checked
with his mother first.

The Phillies selected Rolen in the second round, and four years
later the 6'4" 220-pounder not only is a big leaguer and the
team's starting third baseman, but he also might be leading the
National League in expectations. When the 22-year-old Rolen
arrived at the Phils' camp in Clearwater, Fla., this spring, he
found a sign above his locker that read THE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

"I don't think the expectations are going to bother Scott," says
Philadelphia manager Terry Francona, 37, a major league rookie
himself. "He has the personality and sense of humor to deflate
all that."

Rolen's manager at Class A Spartanburg in 1994, Roy Majtyka, who
once worked in the Braves' farm system, put his dedication to
the game on a par with that of Chipper Jones and Dale Murphy.
His manager at Triple A Scranton last year, Ramon Aviles,
compares him with Cal Ripken Jr. "I had the honor of playing
against Cal in the Puerto Rico winter league when he was still a
Triple A player," Aviles says. "I look at Scott at this stage
and I see Cal."

Rolen is the rare ballplayer who lists among his hobbies reading
(beyond box scores) and guitar playing. He has accumulated two
semesters' worth of college credit in pursuit of a degree. Now
all he has to do is become the cornerstone player for a
franchise that last year had the worst record (67-95) and scored
the fewest runs in the league.

"If I don't hit 548 home runs, have I failed?" Rolen says,
having committed to memory the total of Phillies Hall of Fame
third baseman Mike Schmidt. Rolen, who had four homers in 37
games with Philadelphia last season before suffering a
season-ending fractured bone in his right arm, does not have
Schmidt's power, though he should improve in that area after
correcting a flaw in his swing over the winter. Rolen does have
Gold Glove skills, and he batted a combined .307 last year in
stops at Double A, Triple A and the majors.

"There were times last year when I felt like I belonged on this
level and times when I was overwhelmed," he says. "When Greg
Maddux was reaching down to pick up the baseball on the mound
and I saw MADDUX on the back of his uniform and the fans in the
stadium doing the Tomahawk Chop, that was overwhelming. Being in
the big leagues was everything I thought it would be and more.
For someone who built it up the way I did for so long, that's
saying something."




2B Mickey Morandini
Career on-base percentage is just .327

SS Kevin Stocker
Hit .291 after being recalled in July

LF Gregg Jefferies
Average has dropped four straight years

RF Danny Tartabull
Active leader in games without making playoffs (1,403)

1B Rico Brogna
Lifetime .302 hitter vs. RHP, .236 vs. LHP

3B Scott Rolen
Best Phillies prospect since Juan Samuel in '83

CF Wendell Magee
Bad combination: doesn't hit HRs or steal bases

C Mike Lieberthal
Third overall pick of '90 draft still a question mark

Ace Curt Schilling
Threw four straight complete games in September

Closer Ricky Bottalico
'96 All-Star was bypassed in '91 amateur draft


In three seasons the Phillies went from National League
champions (1993) to the team with the worst record in the league
(67-95 last year). In league history, only one club has had a
swifter reversal of fortune: the New York Giants, who won the
pennant in 1913 and plummeted to last place in '15. Two other
National League clubs hit rock bottom within three years of a
World Series appearance: the '45 Cubs and the '84 Padres.