Maybe it's the masochistic overtones.

Maybe it's the butt-slapping bonhomie.

Whatever it is, it works.

"It's hilarious," Cole Hamels said.

"It's pretty funny," said fellow Dick's Sporting Goods shill Ryan Howard.

It's Jimmy Rollins' commercial for Dick's, in which the Phillies shortstop hypes the new Nike Air Swingman Remix cleats. In it, he is hit by six baseballs shot out of a pitching machine into his chest and gut. Between impacts, he explains to a pair of star-struck adolescents that baseball is about performance, not comfort.

Every time he gets hit, he exudes . . . pleasure?

Yep. Pleasure. In fact, after the last ball nails him, he almost groans, "Yeaaahhh."

No, he didn't get it, either. At first.

"I got the script this winter, and I didn't get it. I was, like, 'You want to sell shoes like this? I'd want to use comfort to sell shoes,' " Rollins said.

Not until he arrived in Oregon a couple of weeks later and started shooting did he understand the somewhat offbeat concept. And he realized: It would take his maximum acting effort to pull it off.

"It took me seven or eight takes to get into it," Rollins said. "Then I said to myself, 'Well, you might as well sell out, commit to the role.' Then, it started getting funny. I was able to slip outside of myself and become a morphed version of me."

The morphed version is the one who, at the commercial's end, smacks one kid hard on the behind after the kid, now standing in the path of the projectiles, is hit by a ball in his stomach and crumples.

Working among a peer group that can be cruel, crude and merciless, Rollins realizes such a commercial could have been a disaster when other players saw it. It was not.

"Nothing but good reviews. It's a hit," Rollins said. "We watch a lot of TV in this business and we see a lot of commercials. We know what makes a commercial corny, or cheesy."

It is neither. Just unusual.

It was a 3-hour ordeal, mostly lighting adjustments and repairs, Rollins said. And while he was hit only by foam rubber balls coming at only 20 mph - after a while, he felt like tenderized meat.

His main complaint: the pitching machine's poor calibration.

"A couple hit me in the neck. The shoulders. One hit me in the face," Rollins said.

Must have been a Mets machine. *