Rondal Jerome Rollin
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 1", Weight 205 lb.
Rondal Rollin twice topped 30 homers in AA yet never made the majors.
Rollin was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the 27th round of the 1977 amateur draft out of high school but went on to college instead of signing. He set Cal State Northridge records for home runs (24), average (.418), hits (105), runs (80), total bases (193) and slugging (.769) and was named NCAA Division II All-American. It would be 10 years before Scott Sharts broke his school record for homers, though his other numbers were significantly lower. The Detroit Tigers picked him in the 15th round of the 1980 amateur draft.
Making his pro debut that summer with the Lakeland Tigers, Rondal hit .249/.296/.367 with only four homers in 60 games. Returning to Lakeland in 1981, he showed his pop more with 14 dingers. He hit .268/.314/.457 with 25 walks and 121 whiffs in 370 at-bats. He tied Danny Tartabull among others for 4th in the Florida State League in home runs, five back of leader Wes Clements. Rollin also tied Cressy Pratt for the FSL lead in strikeouts.
In 1982, he moved up to the Birmingham Barons and only hit 11 home runs while batting .243/.314/.389 with 117 strikeouts. He had an odd split in 1983, playing for class A Lakeland (.293/.352/.512 in 78 G) and the AAA Evansville Triplets (.291/.303/.474 in 62 G, 5 BB, 55 K) without having a stop in AA. He made a whopping 17 outfield errors between the two teams, while scoring 81 runs, driving in 97 and homering 24 times. Despite playing only about half the year, his 11 errors with Lakeland led FSL outfielders. He had shown good power and contact in his first look at AAA but was barely walking and playing poor defense. Perhaps more important to blocking his chance at the majors, the 1983 Tigers had two 20-homer threats in the outfield in Chet Lemon and Larry Herndon, while the third outfielder, Kirk Gibson, had an off-year with 15 but would rebound.
In 1984, Rondal played for Evanville (now AA, hitting .261/.310/.513 in 55 games, 70 K in 199 AB) and the AAA Tucson Toros (.204/.241/.315 in 42 G). The free-swinging slugger spent all of 1985 with Birmingham and had a huge year with 30 home runs, 108 RBI and a .259/.313/.490 batting line. He was second in the Southern League in RBI (8 behind Mark Funderburk), led in strikeouts (143) and was 4th in homers, four shy of leader Funderburk (he also trailed Bill Moore and Rob Nelson. He failed to make the league All-Star outfield as Jose Canseco, Alex Marte and Mark Davidson were picked instead.
In 1986, he played for the Chicago White Sox and Atlanta Braves chains. He was with the Buffalo Bisons (7 for 22, 2B), Greenville Braves and Barons (a combined .217/.276/.412 with 17 HR and 10 errors between Greenville and Birmingham). Rollin kept rolling in his final season, one for the record books. Back with Birmingham, he hit .244/.329/.526 with 28 doubles, 39 home runs, 90 runs, 106 RBI, 65 walks and 218 strikeouts. He set the Birmingham team record for home runs (which still stood over 20 years later) and the Southern League record for whiffs. He broke Roger Cain's 16-year-old strikeout mark by 2 (some sources list him with 217 K in 1987) and Norm Zauchin's 37-year-old club record for dingers. He was three homers shy of Tim Laudner's SL single-season record. He joined Larry Walker and Geronimo Berroa as the SL All-Star outfielders.
Overall, Rondal Rollin hit .254/.311/.458 in 912 minor league games, striking out in 993 of 3,250 at-bats. He hit 155 home runs, scored 478 and drove in 535. He fielded only .948 with 62 errors. He was one of the earliest inductees into the Birmingham Barons Hall of Fame.