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Q&A: Jimmy Rollins swings for Babe Ruth’s record 575-foot homer

Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins(notes) stands 5-foot-7 and weighs 175 pounds, and he proudly owns 161 career home runs in nearly 6,600 career at-bats.

Those stats did not make him an obvious candidate to try and hit a baseball farther than anyone in recorded history ever has. But throw in a little Red Bull (which sponsors Rollins), along with some "mad scientists" who have been experimenting with composite bats and lively balls, and you got Rollins attempting a Guinness World Record on Monday.

Rollins tried to break the record for "Longest Batted Ball," a mark of 575 feet owned by immortal slugger Babe Ruth. Adding to the circuses, Rollins took his hacks with souped-up bats at the intersection of the Ben Franklin Parkway and 20th Street in downtown Philly. The spectacle ran live on during lunchtime.

While Rollins failed to gain Ruthian lengths with any homers — the farthest he hit any ball was 463 feet — he did entertain Philly pholks in a unique way on their lunch hour. Phillies blog extraordinaire The 700 Level recapped the events in brief but entertaining prose.

Below, check out a YouTube video of Rollins' performance, plus a Q&A we did with J-Roll before he tried to break the record. Of course, we also stray from the topic a little, exploring Rollins' brief but storied acting career and his second career as a music impresario:

David Brown: Do you know how long your longest homer is?

Jimmy Rollins: Do I know how long my longest is? No. One at Veteran's Stadium, I hit into the left-center-field suites in my rookie year. I've hit a couple into the second deck at Citizens Bank. And my favorite — you know John Smoltz(notes) don't like it, but — I drove him out of Citizen's Bank to center field. I had fun with that one.

[Editor's note: Red Bull reports that Rollins' personal length record in a game is 420 feet.]

DB: Last year, you were setting up to do this and you had to postpone it. But leading up to the event, your teammates were giving you a hard time about it. Has it come up at all leading to the event this year?

JR: I remember we were playing the Washington Nationals and they might have been staying at the Four Seasons — which is right across the street from Benjamin Franklin. And I remember Adam Dunn(notes) saying he might come over and check it out. It was pretty cool that other teams knew about it. My teammates might have forgotten about it by now, I'm not sure. It's not something we've talked about yet, but I'm sure the next day — regardless of whether I [break] it or not — we'll hear something about it.

DB: Are Guinness people going to be standing by, ready to authenticate this?

Q&A: Jimmy Rollins swings for Babe Ruth’s record 575-foot homer

JR: That's the way it's supposed to go down, as far as I know. I think the only way you can do it is to have them around. You can't [only] report it; I think they have to be there on-site and make sure it happens. The Guinness people take it very seriously. It'd be a great thing to get done and in the record book, so maybe one day I can show my kids, "Look at what your daddy did."

DB: Did you ever want to set any other kinds of Guinness records?

JR: When I was younger, I had plenty of ideas, like trying to bounce a ball longer than anybody, or jump rope longer than anybody. But as you get older, you realize you have to be really dedicated to try and break some of that stuff.

Even these days, there are plenty of times when you want to see the unbelievable happen. Like, for example, Mike Stanton(notes) down in Florida. We were playing them and I thought it would be nice to be up eight or nine runs and just watch him absolutely mash a ball — just to see how far it could go. Just to see him hit the ball up to Harry the K's Restaurant. It's just something, to see the flight of the ball ... it's something you can't explain. You really have to be in love with baseball. Just like in golf, when that ball takes off, with its velocity, you just wonder where it's going to land. Here's an opportunity in an open field for me to go for it, to see how far I can hit it.

Q&A: Jimmy Rollins swings for Babe Ruth’s record 575-foot homerDB: Despite your size, in your soul, are you a slugger?

JR: I'm not a slugger. They do it without effort, in my eyes. My goal is to hit the ball hard. I know I have some pop, so I'm not concerned about that. If you hit the ball hard and you get backspin on it, good things usually happen. Here's a chance to hit the ball correctly, but as hard as I can, without any consequences. If they catch it, there are no outs.

DB: There's never been anything proven about guys doing home run hitting contests and having it mess up their swing, but people always talk about it. Where do you stand on this?

JR: I don't worry about it at all. I think a lot of it has to do with your personality. Some guys enter the home run derby and do very well and they feel that, when they come back during the regular season, they have to prove winning wasn't a fluke. Instead, they should take it as just an event, one moment to hit home runs. The pitcher's going to try and groove you a ball right there.

Situations during games don't necessarily allow you to hit home runs. You might have to get guys over. They're not just going to sit there and throw you batting practice fastballs, so it has to do a lot with the way you approach it. It's a moment in time. And me, I don't ever have to worry about proving I'm a home run hitter. The guys that are hitting 40 and 50 never have to worry about me beating them.

DB: Is this going to be a pitching machine or a person throwing you pitches?

JR: It's going to be Mick Billmeyer, who is my batting practice pitcher every day during the season. Knowing him, his arm angle and his speed — and the other way around, with him knowing where I like the ball — it's going to help.

DB: You've also got a charity bowling event coming up today. Who is the most dangerous bowler on the Phillies?

JR: I would have to say Ryan Howard(notes). We're some pretty big bowlers. We usually go, every spring training, we'll go every Wednesday or Thursday and get 10-15 players and break it up into three teams and we'll have a tournament. We haven't done it the last couple years because players get traded and things of that nature.

But Ryan's a pretty heavy bowler. Like me, he has his own balls. He has a strike ball, he has a spare ball. He throws from the left side, I throw from the right. We've played some pretty good matches.

Q&A: Jimmy Rollins swings for Babe Ruth’s record 575-foot homerDB: Which would you rather experience again? Your MVP season of 2007 or the World Series season of 2008?

JR: 2008, over and over and over again. That's not even a question. No thought needs to go into that. There's nothing like lifting up that trophy when you've won the last game of the season. There's nothing in comparison. At that moment, you are the best player because you're on the best team. Everybody on the team that contributed are the best players. MVPs get the individual accolades but everybody plays for the ring. You can put trophies up on your wall, and you earned them, but it takes a winning team to put that ring on your finger.

DB: We're a couple of years away from the 20th anniversary of your appearance in the Mavis Staples video, "The Voice."

JR: [Laughs]. That long? Wow.

DB: You've put your acting career on hold. You've been in a couple of music videos, but it's been a while ...

JR: If I get a phone call and somebody wants me to be in a video, I'd do it. If I get a phone call and somebody wants me to get up on a big screen, I'd do that also. I guess I need to revisit that part of my life. I've always loved being an entertainer. For some reason, people think I'm funny. I'm not funny as in "ha-ha" laughs, but just being around me. It'd be something [acting] that would be fun to try and do again.

DB: What do you think happened to your character in "The Voice"? Was he saved?

JR: I was never really saved. I was slinging drugs, shooting a kid and then — the song's called "The Voice," [which refers to] listening to the voice in your head. Everybody has a sense of right and wrong and the video shows people going through life and the decisions they made and there was really no ending as far as my character. He just was what he was.

DB: Well, I was sort of hoping you'd turn your life around because it was you.

Q&A: Jimmy Rollins swings for Babe Ruth’s record 575-foot homer

JR: [Laughs]. Right. That didn't happen, at least not in the video. Maybe there's a follow-up, but I didn't get the part.

DB: Pick one: Too $hort, or MC Hammer.

JR: Oh, jeez. You said "pick one"?

DB: It's a hard question.

JR: I know, because MC was the first one who put me on the scene. And I grew up loving Too $hort, but I'm gonna go with Hammer.

DB: How's the recording business going? The recording industry is changing, so how are you changing with it?

JR: As far as me signing recording artists, I'm no longer doing that at this moment. I am buying publishing, which is — if you make the right investment — a sure-fire way to make money in this industry. Investing in artists becomes a headache because, one, you have to deal with an artist. And then you have to deal with producers. And trying to get the music out there.

Buying publishing rights, which is what I'm doing now, you'd be surprised who's out there and needs a publishing deal. I came across Justin Bieber, who has some writers on his ... ay, yai yai ... "Eenie Meanie" song with Sean Kingston. They were looking for a publishing deal, and Justin Bieber's a hot artist, so why wouldn't somebody come by and publish it for him?

Anyhow, I was able to get into the game with him. And since then, I've got some Lupe Fiasco, some Snoop Dogg. As long as the music is selling and being used and synched to things like, "So You Think You Can Dance?" or the Rock Band game, the money's going to keep flowing in. It's not about spending money, it's about making money. The longer I'm in the game, so to speak, the more ways I'm understanding how to make money. As opposed to spending it.

DB: Have you met Bieber, or just his people?

JR: I've never met him. We've only spoken with the writers. It'd be nice to meet him. He's a talented young man.

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