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06/24/08 11:25 PM ET

Rollins fondly recalls Oakland days

Phillies shortstop starred at nearby Encinal High School

OAKLAND -- The 1996 photo of Jimmy Rollins celebrating with Encinal High School teammates, his left arm raised and Rollins flashing a closed-eyed beaming smile, recently found its way to the shortstop's attention.

The picture, taken when the Encinal Jets clinched the North Coast Section title playing at the venue then known as Oakland Coliseum, still makes the Phillies shortstop smile 12 years later.

"It was funny," Rollins said. "I thought, 'Man I was little then.' Not that I'm big now, but I was really little then. It seems like [that time] wasn't part of my life. It was that long ago. So much has happened in 12 years, Minor League ball, getting to the big leagues, playing 162 games. It's like, 'Man, I did that?'"

Rollins did that and more. The reigning National League Most Valuable Player returned to the stadium of his youth, now known as McAfee Coliseum, fittingly on the 29th anniversary of his idol Rickey Henderson's Major League debut.

Rollins starred on those Encinal High School teams, and has since emerged as one of baseball's elite shortstops. He learned his craft nearly 10 minutes away. This isn't his first return to his hometown. Philadelphia also came here in June 2005, with Rollins going 4-for-12 with a home run.

He estimates 24 tickets have been left for each of the three games, though his mother, Gigi Rollins, handled most of the family's requests.

Though he has played in 34 Major League ballparks during a career that began in 2000, Rollins can't forget the feeling of playing at the Coliseum as a high school student.

"The first time in '95, it was a trip," he said. "The infield looked real big. The fences looked far away. The mound seemed taller. Everything is different. I wasn't sure if the ball would take a bad hop. When I got a ground ball and it stayed down, and I thought, 'I guess this is a big league field.'"

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