Baltimore Orioles...Brooks Robinson
Boston Red Sox...Fred Lynn
New York Yankees...Derek Jeter
Today...Rocco Baldelli, Tampa Bay Rays
OK, I had to think about this one, but not for long.
One problem was the fact that 2010 is only the 13th season for the Rays, and most of the Rays players that came to mind...Jose Canseco...he won't make any of my teams...or Wade Boggs, Greg Vaughn, Fred McGriff, Miguel Cairo, or Tino Martinez, were guys who came to the Rays for a short period of time, either at the end of their careers, like Canseco, or like Cairo, at the start. To me, a player has to mean something to a team, be a intregal part of a franchise, and to me, Rocco Baldelli is Mr. Tampa Bay Ray.
Rocco Baldelli played center field, and boy was he ever good. He could run in the outfield, on the bases, he could hit, and he played an all or nothing style, sort of like my guy Freddy Lynn, who is one of my fave outfield guys ever, and my favorite BoSox player ever.
Baldelli played in 156 games as a rookie for the Rays in 2003, batting .289, with 11 homers, and 78 RBI, and then in 2004 Rocco hit .280, with 16 HR's, and 74 RBI's...this time in just 136 games.
The future looked bright for Baldelli and the Rays, until Rocco tore his ACL in the 2005 off season while playing baseball with his brother, and then while rehabbing he hurt his elbow, underwent Tommy John surgery, and was out until June 2006...but when he came back, he came back as healthy as ever, hitting .302, with 16 HR's, with 57 RBI's, and 57 runs scored...in just 364 at bats...Rocco was back.
In 2007, Baldelli hurt his hamstring, and as the injury lingered, he appeared in only 35 games. Doctors later discovered that Baldelli suffered from mitochondrial disease, a neuromuscular disease. Baldelli would miss the rest of 2007, and most of 2008, returning in time to help the Rays win the American League pennant, and to play in the World Series.
Rocco won the 2008 Tony Conigliaro Award, given out for "...to overcome adversity...spirit, determination, and courage."
Rocco played sparingly for the Boston Red Sox in 2009, batting .253, with 7 home runs and 23 RBI.
Today Rocco has returned to the Rays as a special assistant, helping the Rays young players, and still hoping for a return to the game he loves.
I hope Rocco gets back into baseball as a player, he was, and still is, a great representative for our National Game, and the Rays organization.
So, here's a cheer to my favorite Tampa Bay Ray of All-Time, Rocco Baldelli..."The Woonsocket Rocket."