Let's start this article off by saying one thing. Rocco Baldelli is not only athletically gifted, but pretty damn smart as well.
He attended the Gifted and Talented student program while at La Salle Academy in Rhode Island, and then switched to a normal high school by the name of Bishop Hendrickson High School, also in Rhode Island.
While at BHHS, the baseball stud posted a 4.25 grade-point average. He played baseball, indoor track, basketball, and even volleyball, and was a four-star athlete at those sports.
Baldelli was selected in the first round of the 2000 Amateur Draft. Had he not signed with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Baldelli said he would've signed with Wake Forest.
Baldelli spent three years in the minors in the Devil Rays' system. When he finally made his MLB debut on Opening Day of 2003, Baldelli looked to win the American League Rookie of the Year award.
That award would be snatched up by Kansas City Royals' third baseman Angel Berroa. However, Baldelli hit .289 that year, with 11 home runs, and 78 RBI.
Baldelli avoided the "sophomore slump," and had very similar numbers that he posted in his first year with the Devil Rays. He played in 20 less games, but had five more home runs, and 40 less strikeouts than he did the year before.
Baldelli would miss his entire 2005 season with an ACL injury, as well as an elbow injury. He needed surgery on his knee, and Tommy John surgery on his elbow.
Rocco Baldelli would finally return to the Devil Rays in June 2006, after missing nearly 210 games. Despite playing in just 92 games that year, Baldelli had arguably his best season of his career, hitting .302, with 16 home runs.
Another bad break for Baldelli, in 2007 he had a recurring hamstring injury that would keep him out for most of the season. He only played 35 games that year.
His case for a 2008 return was cut short by more injuries. However, doctors didn't have much of a clue to what was wrong with the Devil Rays' right fielder. Baldelli was again placed on the disabled list, and played in just 28 games in 2008, his lowest of his career.
On Aug. 10th, 2008, Rocco Baldelli made his return to baseball. In the game against the Mariners, Baldelli had an RBI single before being pulled from the game in the fifth inning.
In the 2008-2009 off season, doctors agreed that Baldelli had a case of channelopathy, which are diseases that are caused by disturbed function of ion subunits, or the proteins that regulate them.
In non-medical terms, it basically meant that once Baldelli would suffer from injury, his body would sustain it for longer than normal.
In the 2009 season, Baldelli found a home with the Boston Red Sox, who signed him on Jan. 8.
Since his rookie season, Baldelli has played in fewer games in each of his five seasons. Overcoming all of his medical obstacles while still possessing a positive attitude has made Rocco Baldelli one of my favorite athletes.