Rocco Baldelli, a native of Woonsocket, R.I., announced his retirement on Wednesday, ending his injury-filled, seven-year MLB playing career. The 29-year-old cited his health issues as reason to walk away -- Baldelli suffers from channelopathy-related illness, which drains his strength and diminishes stamina. He will remain in the game, however, agreeing to become the special assistant to baseball operations with the Tampa Bay Rays.
The news was first reported by the St. Petersburg Times:
"I don't anticipate ever playing baseball again. I'm retired. The paperwork will be filed," Baldelli said Tuesday night. "And you know what. The only time I feel like it's good to retire is when you're happy to retire. And I'm happy."
The Rays took Baldelli with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2000 draft. He made his debut with Tampa in 2003 and found immediate success, hitting .289/.326/.416 with 11 home runs and 27 stolen bases in 156 games to go along with great defense (led the AL in outfield assists).
Baldelli missed the entire 2005 season while he recovered from both a torn ACL (suffered during the offseason) and Tommy John surgery (to repair the elbow he injured during his ACL rehab). He returned to the Rays' lineup in June of 2006, and played the rest of the season.
In 2007, after trying to play through a lingering hamstring injury and getting sent to the minors, Tampa Bay shut Baldelli for the season after just 35 games. During his time away, he underwent medical tests in which it was discovered he had "metabolic and/or mitochondrial abnormalities." Baldelli attempted to return for the 2008 season, but opened the year on the DL, again. He eventually appeared in 28 games with the Rays and helped Tampa advance to the World Series.
Baldelli signed a one-year deal with the Boston Red Sox for the 2009 season, but played in just 62 games while hitting .253/.311/.433 in between two stints on the 15-day DL. 2010 was his final season in baseball, playing 10 games with the Rays.
"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."