JRoll makes Philly 3rd graders dreams come true

Jimmy Rollins and third grade teacher Hillary Linardopoulos

For months, third grade teacher Hillary Linardopoulos has been on a mission to get Jimmy Rollins to visit her class at Julia deBurgos School in Kensington. She waged a creative, exhaustive Twitter campaign — several Tweets a day, sometimes — to get the star shortstop into her classroom.

Linardopoulos (@MrsL132) is a major Phils fan and had already used her powers of persuasion to get Mayor Michael Nutter to visit to her class. But she wasn’t going to stop there — “I want other people to know what I know, how awesome they are,” she said.

Why JRoll?

“Jimmy Rollins just seemed like a genuine person,” she said. “I think everyone relates to him.”

But Rollins is a busy guy, and he was a tough sell. Linardopoulos first started wooing him on Aug. 22.

Over the months, she offered chocolate chip cookies.  She showed him pictures her students drew.  She told him what a visit would mean: “Senor JRoll you’d provide the kids w/the experience of a lifetime! So many tough situations they deal w/”

Finally, the kids wrote their own persuasive letters.

“Mr. Rollins, I want you to come so bad cause your nice I think. And come with your bat and gloves to play baseball inside the classroom to break glass in the classroom,” wrote Jose.

Another student wrote: “Dear Jimmy Rollins. My name is Najely, I’m in 3rd grade. I go to school in Julia DeBurgos. I heard you have fly beats. I also heard you love music - so do I! In fact, I write songs and sing them. If you come to my school you can meet my awsome teacher Mrs. L. She ran in a marathon so maybe she can give you some pointers. My class agreed you are the best baseball player ever! You inspire us to play sports especially baseball! Your friend, Najely. p.s. I love baseball! Phillys Roll!”

Finally, JRoll proposed another plan.  What if the kids came to Citizens Bank Park to meet him and see a ballgame?

Linardopoulos cried for a half hour when she found out. Her students were over the moon.  None of them had ever been to a Major League game.

The class — 19 students and six adult chaperones, including Linardopoulos attended Friday’s game against the Mets as part of the JRoll’s Aces program, where Rollins brings deserving young people to Citizens Bank Park.

The deBurgos kids got to go onto the field, watch batting practice, and meet Rollins, who posed for photos and signed autographs.

JRoll did not disappoint.

He spoke in Spanish to a shy young girl who’s a recent immigrant from the Dominican Republic; he clowned around with Kasan Marshall, who called him “sir” and beamed when Rollins joked, “Ah, you’re a knucklehead, aren’t you?”

“Kasan just eats that stuff up,” Linardopoulos said.

Linardopoulos was dazzled herself. After months of correspondence, Rollins walked right up to her and said, “Well hello, Miss Persistent,” she remembered.
When the third graders first arrived at the stadium, the kids just stared at the huge stadium, the big scoreboard, the players who waved and said hello to them.

But when the game started, they were hooked. They danced in their seats; they charmed other fans in their section, who were impressed with their enthusiasm and sense of wonder, Linardopoulos said.

And when JRoll came up to the plate?

Bedlam, every time, especially when he pointed up to their section before his first at bat of the game.

“It was one of the best days of my life, and I know it was one of the best days of their lives," Linardopoulos said. He’s our hero.”