Rocco Baldelli Calls It Quits
Sadly, Rocco Baldelli, 29, retired yesterday after an injury-flawed career, surprising no one. A first round draft pick, Baldelli leaped into the pros in 2003 with much promise. He had the quickness, the power, the glove, and of course, a great Italian name, drawing early comparisons to another star Italian centerfielder.
In his rookie season, he finished 3rd in Rookie of the Year voting, hit .289, swiped 27 bases, and finished 8th in the AL with 8 triples. He was set for superstardom and the possible savior to a pitiful Tampa Bay Devil Rays organization that produced a measly 55 wins in 2002.
Unfortunately, after the 2004 season, the man known as the Woonsocket Rocket, never played in more than 95 games in a season. After two solid seasons in the bigs, injuries plague the remainder of his descending baseball career. Injuries ranging from ACL knee reconstruction, hamstring pulls, and the dreaded Tommy John surgery, as well as an abundant number of unusual health problems, ultimately led to Baldelli’s decision to retire at the age of 29.
In an interview with the St. Petersburg Times’ Marc Topkin, Baldelli classily stated, “I don’t regret anything. You know what’s sad is that I love to play, and I really didn’t get a chance to do it as much as I wanted to. But I don’t live angrily; I live kind of happy. Why would I look at the negative aspects of everything that I’ve been through and live the rest of my life talking about those things that aren’t the important things to me? The important things to me were all the wonderful things I got to do.”
Baldelli will accept a front-office position with the Rays, reminding The Sports Minion a bit of Oakland GM Billy Beane and his decision to join the front office after his once promising baseball career never panned out.
Baldelli remains on my list of successful Italian-American athletes and was named into the Rhode Island Italian-American Hall of Fame. I still recall my Grandfather telling me “that kid is gonna be the next Joey D.” He wasn’t, but for a couple years he gave us hope.