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Rocco Baldelli

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Rocco Dan Baldelli
(The Woonsocket Rocket)

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[edit] Biographical Information

Rocco Baldelli graduated from Bishop Hendricken High School, in Warwick, Rhode Island. He was an All-State selection in Baseball, Volleyball, Basketball & Outdoor Track, and academically, he finished in the top 10% of his graduating class. He was offered and accepted a baseball scholarship to Wake Forest University but signed a contract with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays after being drafted with pick number 6 in the first round of the 2000 amateur draft. After a couple of so-so years in the minors, he blossomed in 2002, hitting a combined .331 with 19 homers and 71 RBI at three levels of the Devil Rays' organization. This earned him Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year honors.

He made the Devil Rays' opening day line-up in 2003, being the starting centerfielder at age 21. His first major league game was against the Boston Red Sox; he lined a double down the third base line off Pedro Martinez for his first hit. After his first two years with the Devil Rays, he appeared headed for superstardom: he hit .289 with 78 RBI in 156 games in 2003 and was named to the 2003 Topps All-Star Rookie Team, then followed that with a .280 batting average, 16 homers and 74 RBI in 2004. However, almost nothing would go right for him from that point on.

Baldelli missed the entire 2005 season with a shoulder injury, requiring Tommy John Surgery. He played 92 games in 2006, putting up a great batting line of .302/.339/.533, but needed knee reconstruction surgery after the season. Starting in 2007, he began suffering from a puzzling medical condition that sapped his strength and stamina. First wrongly diagnosed as suffering from mitochondrial disease, he did not respond well to treatments, and was limited to 35 games during which he hit a weak .204 in 2007. The following year, the condition was correctly identified as a form of channelopathy, which allowed for better treatment, although the overall debilitating effects of the disease could not be completely reversed, and treatments would keep him off the field for long stretches of time. In 2008, he was limited to 28 games as the renamed Rays reached the postseason for the first time in franchise history. He hit .263 in 80 at-bats and was used in all three rounds of the postseason, hitting a homer in the ALCS against the Boston Red Sox, and another against Ryan Madson of the Philadelphia Phillies in the 6th inning of Game 5 in the World Series. That blast came when the game was resumed two days after being suspended in the 6th inning on October 27, tying the game at 3-all. The Phillies then scored what would prove to be the Series-winning run in the bottom of the frame.

In 2009, Baldelli signed as a free agent with his "hometown" team, the Red Sox, as a back-up outfielder, and got into 62 games during the season, hitting .253 with 7 homers and 23 RBI. He did not play in the postseason, however, and became a free agent again after the season. Following more treatments, he signed back with Tampa Bay in July of 2010. He was back in the big leagues in September, hit a homer in his first at-bat of the season, and went on to collect 5 hits in 24 at-bats as the Rays edged the New York Yankees for the AL East title. He was hitless in three at-bats in the ALDS loss to the Texas Rangers, but could only get into one game as he was affected by severe cramps. He later explained that he felt terrible about letting his teammates down by being unable to help during these crucial games.

Realizing that he would never regain the top physical condition needed to play major league baseball, Baldelli announced his retirement at age 29 on January 26, 2011, adding that he had accepted a position in the Rays' front office, with duties related to scouting and player development.`In 2015, he moved back to the field as first base coach for the Rays.

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