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Jimmy Rollins
Hammer time helps Oakland-born shortstop

By Mike Scarr / MLB.com

Gertrude Stein never met Jimmy Rollins.

She also never met Dontrelle Willis, Joe Morgan, Rickey Henderson or any of the other ballplayers who ran, pitched and hit their way across the corner lots and schoolyards of Oakland and the East Bay.

Stein once wrote about Oakland, "There is no there there."

But it is exactly from there that Rollins and other stars like Willie Stargell and Curt Flood launched their Major League careers.

Rollins, Stargell and Willis all attended Encinal High School in nearby Alameda, Calif.

Rollins, the 2007 National League Most Valuable Player, won a North Coast Section title with the Encinal Jets, but his course in baseball was set much earlier. Both his dad, James Sr., and his mom, Gyvonnie, deserve credit for that.

Gyvonnie Rollins talks about how she used to roll a ball to Rollins when he was a year old. Eventually, it was his dad who became instrumental in helping to make both Jimmy and his younger brother, Antwon, into ballplayers. Antwon spent four years in the Texas organization.

"I started [Jimmy] out by having him hit only on the left side for a year," James Rollins Sr. said. "One day, he came into the house all crying and everything. He said he couldn't hit from his [right] side anymore. I told him not to worry. He thought he'd lost it, but I told him he'd just converted himself over to a switch-hitter."

Age: 29

Hometown:
Oakland, Calif.

School:
Encinal, Alameda, CA

MLB Teams:
PHI

Video | Player bio
The senior Rollins also assisted with defensive development, hitting balls on rough surfaces to help his son handle a variety of situations.

"We'd go to places where there were roots in the ground and the ball would take crazy hops," James Sr. said. "Then I'd take him to a smooth field to show him the difference. Then we'd go back to the rough field, and I'd hit it to him pretty hard so he'd be able to take different spins."

But childhood wasn't all about baseball for Rollins, whose early acquaintance with Stanley Kirk Burrell -- aka MC Hammer -- helped to fuel his interest in the music industry.

Hammer is also from Oakland, and the rap music icon included the Rollins brothers in a video when Jimmy was approximately 13.

As a high school sophomore, Rollins also appeared in a Mavis Staples video.

Rollins' hand is still in the music industry. According to his Web site, he formed the music label Bay Sluggas, Inc., and is the chief executive of its subsidiary Rollins Entertainment.

The music label name is an homage to Henderson, Flood, Stargell and Morgan.

Can't touch this.

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