Jimmy Rollins, the 2007 National League MVP, is making it a priority to increase interest in baseball among African-American children and adults. After donating 32 computers and launching the "J-Roll MVP Computer Lab" inside Olney High School West in Philadelphia on Monday, Rollins expressed his plans.
11/28/2007 10:20 AM ET
J-Roll launches MVP Computer Lab
"A lot of these kids grow up knowing about a baseball team from a logo they see on the fitted hats they buy, but know nothing about the game itself. So when they do see a player like myself, they are like, 'Who is that,'" he told the Philadelphia Daily News.
Rollins would like to continue what his childhood idol, Rickey Henderson, did while he was growing up in Oakland.
"We have to let some of these kids in the city know, and change their perspective that baseball is not just a 'white man's game,' as they would see it," Rollins said earlier this week during his MVP banquet celebration at Citizens Bank Park.
"It's America's game and hopefully they are able to see that because of guys like myself."
Jenks lends a hand to high school players: Bobby Jenks recently served as a mentor to the White Sox Amateur City Elite team, sponsored by White Sox Charities. The team is a traveling baseball squad made up totally of students from high schools within the city.
This effort, along with the closer's recent guest appearance at one of Don Cooper's pitching clinics, conducted in conjunction with the Bulls-Sox Training Academy, are all part of his desire to be a big part of the community.
"It's important for me to let them know we are still normal guys and we love being out involved," Jenks told MLB.com.
In just three Major League seasons, Jenks has recorded 87 saves -- including 40 last season.
Harang part of supportive cast of players: Aaron Harang, who was the Cincinnati Reds' nominee for the 2007 Roberto Clemente Award, which honors community service, takes his acts of charity very seriously. As one of many members of the Reds who take part in charitable drives and functions, Harang says that such works are very important.
"You always want to give back to the community, especially in the area you play in, and help out," Harang told MLB.com.
Harang, though, is not alone in his efforts. Lately, more and more players and teams have been active.
"Overall, the most exciting part to us is the ongoing cultural change," said Reds Community Fund executive director Charley Frank. "At the league meetings, we heard from some teams that have to fight for their voice [within the franchise]. Our team is supportive. We don't have to fight at all. Our ownership and executive level management is fighting for us."
Wood relishes thought of being closer: Kerry Wood, who earlier this week agreed to a new one-year deal that will keep him with the Cubs, may be among the candidates to be the new closer. Ryan Dempster, it has been previously announced, is moving back into the starting rotation. This is a challenge that Wood is certainly interested in accepting.
"I would think anybody who plays this game wants to be in that position," Wood told the Chicago Tribune. "If you're playing shortstop, you want the ball hit to you to make the last out of the game. So sure, you say you want to be in that role, and the adrenaline of it every night and the excitement of it.
"It's not an easy job. Dempster got some harsh criticism last year, and I think he was ... fifth in [Major League] save percentage. And he had a rough time out there.
"It's fun. It's a rewarding job, and you definitely know when you're in the game, the game is on the line. ... It's a high-pressure job. We need someone down there who's going to get it done. Demp has done a great job for us, and he's moving on to starting now, so somebody's got to fill his role."
General manager Jim Hendry, while not tipping his hand, admits that Wood falls into that category of those that might fit into that role.
"He's got great stuff still and certainly has the character and the fortitude to get people out in the ninth inning," said Hendry. "(Bob) Howry did a terrific job and (Carlos) Marmol was arguably the best young reliever in the league."
Screeches beckon after Brocail signs with Astros: Looking to add to the bullpen, the Houston Astros and reliever Doug Brocail agreed to a one-year deal with a club option. This is Brocail's third stint with the Astros.
Brocail was hoping to sign a deal with the Astros, the team he pitched for in 1995 and 1996 and again in 2001 and 2002, though he missed both of those seasons with elbow problems.
"When I told them the news there was an opportunity for me to come here, they were really ecstatic," Brocail told the Houston Chronicle of his wife, Lisa, and five daughters. "Five minutes ago when I got the phone call, I got a couple screeches, some hugs and kisses. It was a blessing."
Brocail, 40, was 5-1 with a 3.05 ERA in 2007 with the San Diego Padres. The Astros hope Brocail fills the large leadership void that was left open when former Astros reliever Russ Springer was not re-signed after the 2006 season.
"I just know they really felt (Brocail) was one of the guys you could really call the glue," Astros general manager Ed Wade said of the Padres. "There's a right way to do things and a wrong way, and he knows the right way.
"I know we have a good bullpen and pitching coach. But it's really important to have guys to police themselves. I think from a respect standpoint from what Doug has been through on and off the field, he brings the credibility that other players should respect."
Brocail is 44-43 with a 3.99 career ERA over 534 games since reaching the Majors in 1992 with the Padres.
Cameron inquiries heating up: The agent for center fielder Mike Cameron, Mike Nicotera, plans to be in Nashville later this week in time for the Winter Meetings. And one of the clubs he is sure to contact is the Texas Rangers, who lost out on free agent Torii Hunter and are still in the market for a center fielder.
"I've had numerous conversations with clubs, and, since Torii signed, there's been more conversations," Nicotera told the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram. "It's been about what I expected. Mike's a good fit for a number of reasons, especially given the marketplace. There are numerous clubs that have expressed interest."
Cameron is coming off a Gold Glove season in 2006 to go with his Gold Gloves in 2001 and 2003. During his career, he has hit 20 or more home runs six times and he has played in 140 games in nine of the past 10 seasons.
An uncomfortable road to recovery for Wells: Vernon Wells is recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder, though the road to recovery has not always been comfortable for the Blue Jays' star center fielder.
"It stunk for a while," Wells told the Toronto Globe and Mail in an interview from his Texas home. "I had to sleep in a recliner because it hurt too bad to lay flat for 10-15 minutes at a time. When I was elevated, it didn't bother me nearly as much since the surgery and the anchors they put in were towards the front of my shoulder. When I would lay on my back, my shoulders would drop and it would pull on them a little bit. So it wasn't the most comfortable feeling in the world."
Wells is at rehab three times a week now, nine weeks after the surgery. He is doing stretching, strength and range of motion exercises. By mid-December, he will be able to start some light weight training as well as gently swinging a bat and running. He expects to be 100 percent for Spring Training.
"It's amazing how much more stable it is," Wells said of his the shoulder. "Just walking around, I can feel the difference, it doesn't feel loose and it can go wherever it wants to right now. Until I start lifting (weights) again I won't truly, truly, know the difference. There's still a little bit of pain in there. There's still some healing that has to go on, but it's looking good right now."
The injury hampered Wells for much of last season, leading to a .245 batting average with 16 home runs. In 2006, a healthy Wells hit .303 with 32 home runs and 106 RBIs.
Hampton suffers hamstring injury: Braves pitcher Mike Hampton suffered a setback in his first start in the Mexican Winter League. An injured hamstring forced him from his start after just one inning and it is doubtful that he will pitch again this winter.
"We don't know when he'll come back [in winter ball], if at all," Braves general manager Frank Wren told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "There's only four weeks left in the season, and hamstring injuries usually take a while."
Hampton missed the past two seasons recovering from elbow surgeries on his pitching arm. The Braves were hoping that he would get some much-needed innings in Mexico.
"We're cautiously optimistic that Mike can bounce back and be a starter," Wren said. "But it's simple as this: there's no guarantees."
Oritz on the mend after knee surgery: Recovery from recent offseason knee surgery is going well for David Ortiz, the Boston Herald reported.
Ortiz had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Nov. 6 to repair damaged cartilage. His knee bothered him throughout the season, though it rarely kept him out of the lineup as he played in 149 games.
"I think I will be training and running at full speed by January," he said. "It was a simple operation."
The 32-year-old had a career-high .332 batting average this year, but his 35 homers and 117 RBIs were his lowest totals in the past four seasons.
-- Red Line Editorial