08/02/2012 10:57 PM
As if there wasn't enough intrigue surrounding the Boulders' first scheduled tussle with the American Associaion's Kansas City T-Bones - a formidable foe standing in the way of a Rockland squad in need of victories in their playoff push - the side stories nearly write themselves.
With the Boulders entering the stretch run, their skipper Dave LaPoint will be unavailable to manage the squad this weekend, heading for St. Louis for no less than a 30th anniversary reunion of the 1982 World Series Championship Cardinals team of which LaPoint was a key part. He will be on the field at Busch Stadium to be honored with his former teammates on Saturday, but the Boulders will be left in very capable hands.
Damian Rolls, who has served as the Boulders' hitting coach and LaPoint's assistant since the team's inception, will take the reins for the big weekend set. Rolls, who was born in Manhattan, Kansas, grew up just minutes from what is now the T-Bones' home field, Community America Ballpark. While his five-year Major League career saw him play 266 games, all with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, home was where his heart was and where his playing days would come to an end.
As knee problems brought his active career toward a close, Rolls played for the T-Bones for the 2009 season, where he batted .294 while slugging 14 homers in 90 games played. After his retirement, he remained with the team as a hitting coach for the 2010 season. It was then that he got a call for from a good friend.
"Dave (LaPoint) called me and said he needed help, and I said 'I'm there,'" the popular Rolls recalled, citing the preparation for the Boulders inaugural season a year ago. "That's the kind of relationship we have." While Rolls did fill in as manager for one series early last year in which the Boulders faced Quebec in Trois Rivieres, the circumstances are clearly different this time.
Rolls still speaks glowingly of his time in the KC organization and the energy in his voice is unmistakable when he talks about facing his hometown team. "It's definitely extra special going against the T-Bones," the third base coach beamed. "I've been putting it in the ear of some of our players this whole week." And Rolls knows that there will be interest in his progress from back home as well, where he still speaks of his parents attending his games while coaching with the T-Bones, and the honor he received of having a stadium dedicated in his name in Wyandotte County.
Make no mistake - D-Rolls enters the weekend with his sole focus being on leading the Boulders to victory, and manager LaPoint knows the squad is in good hands and expects the transition to be a smooth one. "I rely on him so much during the season anyway," the helmsman stated. "He's got a lot of adrenaline running through his system," LaPoint acknowledged, "but he'll know how to take care of it," he added confidently.
Whether he has aspirations of running his own team at some point was not the topic for discussion for Damian Rolls on this day. The affable coach's determination comes through with every word, yet he is able to sum up his expectations simply. "This is special because it's baseball, and it's what I like to do," said the man who can certainly lay claim to being one of the rocks in the Boulders' foundation.