July 24 (UPI) -- Scott Rolen and Fred McGriff were nearly brought to tears as they gave induction speeches for the 2023 National Baseball Hall of Fame. The former baseball stars detailed their families and journeys to Cooperstown, N.Y.
McGriff, 59, started his speech by talking about the origins of his baseball "dream" Sunday at the Clark Sports Center. His speech focused on gratitude and he thanked all of the people who helped him enter Cooperstown.
"This is like icing on the cake," McGriff said. "My goal was simply to make it to the big leagues, and I exceeded every expectation I could ever imagine, and then some. It is a great feeling getting recognized for your hard work.
"And now to have a plaque forever hanging in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, it's unbelievable."
McGriff was a unanimous selection for induction by the 16-member contemporary baseball era committee, which voted at the 2022 winter meetings.
He reflected on each stop of his baseball journey and thanked fans for their support. McGriff went on to speak about his hometown of Tampa, Fla. He described his disappointment in getting cut from his high school baseball team and how he rebounded from the adversity.
"It's been a long journey, a lot of hard work put in, thousands of hours trying to get better," McGriff said. "Like I tell everyone, a computer can't measure what's in someone's heart."
McGriff hit .284 with 493 home runs over 2,460 MLB appearances. The first baseman was a five-time All-Star and three-time Silver Slugger Award winner. "Crime Dog" won the 1995 World Series while with the Atlanta Braves. He was the 1994 All-Star Game MVP.
McGriff led the American League with 36 home runs in 1989. He led the National League with 35 homers in 1992. He hit a career-high .318 in 1994 for the Braves. McGriff spent his final season in 2004 with the Tampa Bay Rays. He also spent time with the Toronto Blue Jays, San Diego Padres, Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Ken Griffey Jr., Johnny Bench, Cal Ripken Jr., Derek Jeter and Frank Thomas were among the crowd of Hall of Famers sitting on stage behind McGriff and Rolen as they gave their speeches.
"I assumed that this group would be quite intimidating," Rolen said to the thousands of fans in attendance. "It is, but way more intimidating is the group behind me and standing here in front of these legends. On this stage is baseball greatness."
Rolen, 48, also spoke about his journey, which started in Jasper, Ind. The 17-year veteran started his speech by thanking the crowd and his family. He also took time to recognize members of the Indiana Bulls, the youth baseball team he coaches.
Rolen's voice then cracked as he became emotional, talking about his wife and children. He went on to give thanks to the Baseball Writers Association of America. Rolen received 76.3% of the votes from the writers in his sixth-year of eligibility for election.
"At no point in my lifetime did it ever occurred to me that I'd be standing on this stage," Rolen said. "But I'm glad it occurred to you, because this is unbelievably special."
The 1997 National League Rookie of the Year entered the league as a second-round pick by the Phillies in the 1993 MLB Draft. Rolen was a seven-time All-Star, eight-time Gold Glove winner and won a World Series in 2006 with the Cardinals.
The third baseman hit a career-high .314 in 2004 for the Cardinals. He also recorded career-highs with 34 home runs and 124 RBIs that season. Rolen hit .281 with 316 home runs in 2,038 career games. He totaled 2,077 career hits.
Rolen's speech focused on advice he once received from his dad when he was 18 and struggling as a basketball player. He said he told his dad at the time about all of the things other players could do better than him. He then told his dad that he could focus on giving more effort and outwork the other players, a trait he later carried into his baseball career.
"I dreamed of being a Major League Baseball player, but I was not raised to be a Major League Baseball player," Rolen said. "I was raised to be honest, to work hard, to be accountable for my words and actions, and to treat people with kindness and respect."
Rolen said his ability to never allowed himself to be outworked was a primary factor in driving him to Cooperstown.
"In baseball, I am a Jasper Wildcat," Rolen said. "I am an Indiana Bull. I am a Philadelphia Phillie, I am a St. Louis Cardinal, I am a Toronto Blue Jay, I am a Cincinnati Red. And today because of all your support, I am a National Baseball Hall of Famer.
"In my life, I am a friend, I am a brother, I am a son, I am a husband, and I am the greatest gift, a father."
Todd Helton, Billy Wagner, Andruw Jones, Gary Sheffield, Carlos Beltran, Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez are among the baseball legends on the ballot for 2024 induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.