- Baldelli's father is a retired firefighter. But now, Dan Baldelli owns a pawn shop, a check cashing store, and Hava Java Coffee House/doughnut shop. He constructed a batting cage in the basement of the coffee house in Cumberland, Rhode Island, so that Rocco could work on his hitting. Rocco still works on his swing down there in the off-season.
- Rocco has two brothers: Nicholas, who is two years younger, and Dante, who is 15 years younger than Rocco. His mother's name is Michelle. She is French.
He is humble and modest. He has no noticeable ego.
- Rocco was so busy with playing sports and with school, that he didn't get his driver's license until he was 18 years old.
- Baldelli was a three-sport star: volleyball, basketball, and baseball. He played all three well enough to earn college scholarships in each of them. And, he was the Rhode Island indoor sprint champion during the winter of 1999–2000.
"Volleyball was probably my best sport. I could have gone the farthest in that sport, but you can’t make a living playing volleyball." And Rocco's father relates: "He really tore it up in volleyball. The kid has some hops: a 40-inch vertical. He could dominate in volleyball."
He was an excellent student too, even tutoring other students in physics. Rocco scored 1,300 on his SAT test.
- In 2000, Rocco is the first first-rounder from Rhode Island since Bill Almon in 1974. And he is only the second first round pick ever to come out of the state of Rhode Island.
- Besides his baseball scholarship offer to Wake Forest, Baldelli also had a scholarship offer to UCLA for volleyball and another offer to walk on to Princeton's basketball team. But he turned all those offers down for pro baseball.
- Rocco said his favorite player when he was in high school was Braves' OF Andruw Jones.
- Baldelli is a hard working player with a strong desire to learn and improve. He plays fearlessly. And he has good game awareness. He has the intangibles you look for, along with those very good tools. And he has the athleticism and instincts to excel.
- Rocco was named 2002 Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year. He joined a list of recipients that includes stars such as Manny Ramirez, Derek Jeter, Andruw Jones, Paul Konerko, and Eric Chavez. "It's pretty crazy for me to even look at that and to say I've gotten an award that they received," Baldelli said.
- Baldelli has the Major League Baseball logo tattooed just above his left ankle.
- Rocco's Dad, Dan, oversees roccobaldelli.com, which sells autographed cards, bats, hats, and other paraphernalia. All the profits go toward a scholarship for students who show the same academic and athletic prowess Baldelli did. When it made $650 in 2002, Dan added enough to make a $1,000 scholarship.
- During 2003 spring training, Baldelli hit .278 (22-for-79) and led the Devil Rays in home runs (five) and RBIs (15).
On March 31, 2003, Carl Crawford and Rocco Baldelli were the first 21-year-old (or younger) players to start in an Opening Day lineup since Greg Luzinski (21) and Mike Anderson (20) of the Phillies in 1972.
The last team to have two 21-year-old teammates start on Opening Day was the 1997 Marlins, who had shortstop Edgar Renteria and second baseman Luis Castillo. But the standard for two rookies breaking in together remains Fred Lynn (age 23) and Jim Rice (22) in 1975. Lynn hit .331-21-105 while Rice hit .309-22-102. Those are numbers that will probably never be matched by two rookies on the same team.
- Teammates liked not only what Rocco does on the field, but how he does it. He takes a professional approach and proceeds in a very humble manner. "I'm trying to take whatever happens and enjoy it," Baldelli said.
- Rocco has a habit of starting crossword puzzles and never finishing them, not because he can't but because he doesn't have the patience.
During the 2003 season, Baldelli's teammates played a good amount of tricks of him, all part of the rookie hazing. In a game in June, Baldelli played the first inning in centerfield with "ROCCO" on the back of his jersey rather than "BALDELLI."
"I had no idea," Baldelli said. "Someone said something and I remember looking back but I saw what looked like a B, and I was like, "What are you talking about?' I guess it was an R." The teasing was went up a notch because Baldelli was wearing a microphone and being followed by a camera crew from "This Week in Baseball."
"I think Steve Parris was behind that; I'll call him out," Baldelli said. "I'm sure a lot of other people were, too." With his teammates eagerly watching, Baldelli wore the substitute jersey in the field for the first inning. Umpire Ed Rapuano told him about it on his way off the field, and he switched before he batted. "I didn't know what he was talking about," Baldelli said. "I'm like, 'Are you serious?' And I came in and everybody was laughing at me."
Rocco's eyes are not good. He wears soft contacts to play and glasses other times. His eyesight, uncorrected, is about 20-100.
He underwent laser eye surgery to correct his vision. And he loves the difference it has made.
During the off-season before 2004 spring training, Rocco took a December trip to Italy to see Rome. He was accompanied by his girlfriend, former University of Rhode Island volleyball player Michelle Fulton.
On another trip with friends to the Bahamas, he was star-struck to run across Tara Reid, Michael Jordan, Pete Sampras and Wayne Gretzky.
- He put on over 10 pounds of muscle, mostly in his chest. The plan was so he could stay strong and avoid a late-season drop-off in numbers.
- During the off-season, family friend and former minor league infielder, Karl Allaire, throws him batting practice.
Baldelli gets his even temperament from his mother, Michelle. His father, Dan, is a little more on the emotional side.
"My Dad is probably the stereotypical older Italian guy," Baldelli said. "That's him, but he just wants the best. I try to stay the same everyday, because it's the right way to go. If you start worrying and panicking every time something goes wrong, you're going to be a mess for eight months." (Jerry Crasnick-Baseball America-5/17/04)
September 27-30, 2004: Rocco missed three games for what the team said was a family matter.
June 15, 2006: Making the most of his extended time on the D.L., Rocco got in touch with his artistic side. Using sunflower seeds as his brush and Styrofoam cups as his canvas, Baldelli created the likenesses of three teammates. Immortalized in Styrofoam are Mark Hendrickson, Julio Lugo and Toby Hall. Rocco has donated the cups to the Arts Center in St. Pete which will auction them off.
In 2006, Baldelli was nominated for the Roberto Clemente Award. Rocco is very active in the community with youth baseball clinics and visits to children's hospitals both in the Tampa Bay area during the season and back home in Rhode Island in the offseason.
In 2007, Baldelli won the Roger Maris Award presented by the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association. The award was created in 2002 to honor Maris for "hard work, dedication and respect for the game and his teammates."
Rocco says the band he'd like to be on stage with is: "Weezer. I already have the clothes," Baldelli said.
He doesn't go shopping at the mall, like most other baseball players. "I prefer to do my shopping online."
How about a dream date? "Michelle Williams, the actress," Rocco said. (Marc Topkin-St. Petersburg Times-8/24/08)
Baldelli is polite, almost shy, when dealing with the media.
Rocco won't admit to rooting hard for the Red Sox or even the Providence Friars when he was growing up. He says he was busy being a player, not a fan. And he's not going to get all sentimental about playing outfield for the Olde Towne Team.
In 2009, Red Sox G.M. Theo Epstein really liked having Baldelli on the team.
"It was a pleasure having him here," Theo said. “He always worked as hard as he possibly could to be ready. He always communicated well with Tito and the staff to let them know when there were days he wasn’t fully available.
“It’s a shame this guy has some of these limitations that are beyond his control because he gets the absolute most out of himself. He’s awesome as a player to have around.’’
During his comeback early in the second half of the 2010 season, Rocco was reflective about his career. He was humble as a budding star, and stoic as a declining athlete. He is not the type to casually spill his heart, but his down-to-earth attitude and gracious manner have shone through all of his setbacks. Baldelli has been through more than most of us will ever know, and there is an appreciation in the bleachers for the way he has handled it all.
"As a player, early in my career especially, you try not to think about anything besides what you have to do on the field. So you don't really think about how people perceive you. Honestly, you don't even care," Baldelli said. "My priority was never to be the most loved player out there. But, you know what, over time you start to realize there are a lot of people out there who care about you and who wish the best for you. It's something that takes time for you to appreciate.
"By now, I'm to the point where I can look at it — and I don't like to think I'm some big thing that people out in the public care about — but I've met a lot of people and been in contact with a lot of people in the St. Pete-Tampa area, and everywhere to be honest. And it took a little time, but I think I do know now that there are a lot of people out there pulling for me, and it makes me feel good." (John Romano-St. Petersburg Times-7/23/10)
Fun Facts: 1) Rocco breeds thoroughbred horses. For non-horse people, that means the kind of horses that race. “It’s a very small commercial operation,” Baldelli once told the Daily Racing Form. “I try to breed commercially, but I try to breed a nice racehorse as well.”
2) In high school, Rocco got a very high score on his SAT and was even considering attending Yale.
3) Rocco plays the bass guitar.
4) Baldelli learned about baseball analytics and scouting after he retired and then helped build the Rays’ current baseball operations department.
June 2000: The Rays made Rocco their first round pick, and signed him for $2.25 million, out of Bishop Hendrickson School in Cumberland, Rhode Island. (The Rays took advantage of a draft rule that allows the bonus of a multi-sport athlete to be paid over five years.)
November 9, 2005: Baldelli signed a six-year contract, worth as much as $33 million with the Devil Rays. It could keep Rocco with Tampa Bay through the 2011 season. The first six years (2006-2008) are guaranteed, but the Rays hedged the deal against injury by using incentives based on plate appearances. (The Rays did not pick up the option on Rocco's contract, saving the team $4 million.)
October 30, 2008: Rocco filed for free agency.
On November 25, 2008, Baldelli won the 19th annual Tony Conigliaro Award, which is presented to a Major League player who has overcome adversity through the attributes of spirit, determination, and courage that were trademarks of Tony C.
January 7, 2008: Rocco agreed to a contract with the Red Sox.
November 5, 2009: Baldelli filed for free agency.
March 2, 2010: Rocco became a special assistant with the Rays. Baldelli said a shoulder injury was preventing him from playing in 2010 but was "not ready to retire.'' In fact, he could join the Rays as a player later in the season.
|Birth City:||Woonsocket, RI|
|Draft:||Devil Rays #1 - 2000 - Out of high school (RI)|
- Baldelli is an excellent hitter for both average and power. He has good balance and power in his swing. His bat speed is very good and he uses his hands well.
- Rocco was a switch-hitter until he broke his leg when he was 14 years old. After that, he didn't play baseball for two years.
- Rocco gets himself out more often than the pitchers do. He needs to make more consistent contact and tighten his strike zone, but that should come with maturity. His swing is somewhat inconsistent and can get long and loopy at times. But he has the line-drive swing to get even better at smoking the ball into the alleys.
- He can get a bit long with his swing. Pitchers like to go outside with outside pitches, which Rocco will chase most times. Plate discipline is the biggest question about his game. He doesn't take many bases on balls.
- Baldelli will make adjustments from at-bat to at-bat. What got him out in the first inning he will nail for a double in the fourth inning. He has a natural feel for the bat head.
- Rocco started his Major League career with a 13-game hitting streak (May 31-April 17, 2003). That was a Devil Rays' team record for a hitting streak at the start of a season and a career. It was tied for the fifth-longest hitting streak in Rays history and was a team record for rookies.
- In 2003, Baldelli hit .304 before the All Star break and .270 in the second half of the season. He led all Major League rookies with 184 hits, becoming just the ninth American League rookie since World War II to get that many hits in a season. Of the 15 players since 1900 to have 184-or-more hits in a season at Rocco's age or younger, seven are Hall of Famers—Jimmie Foxx, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Lloyd Waner, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron and Al Kaline.
- D'Rays batting coach Lee Elia was asked what makes Baldelli such a fine hitter at such a young age. "He has a gifted ability to remember how pitchers worked against him," Elia said. "Most guys write it down. For Rocco, it's all in his head."
- June 17, 2006: Rocco hit his first homer in 624 days to help the D-Rays in a 7-2 win over the Phillies. Back from a lengthy stay (spanning two seasons) on the D.L. with a torn ACL, Baldelli has lead an offensive surge since his return 10 games ago.
- September 14, 2006: Baldelli hit two home runs, his first multi-homer game of his Major League career, and a triple in the Rays 7-4 loss to the Yankees. The homers continued Rocco's streak of homering every year on September 14 since he broke into the Majors in 2003. September 14 is his mother's birthday.
- Rocco's best tool is speed. He runs the 60 in 6.4 seconds, 4.3 in the 40, and has been clocked at 3.8 and 3.9 seconds to first base. That is the fastest righthanded speed in the Major Leagues.
- Even at six-foot-four, he runs real well and is graceful. Baldelli's speed will keep him from ever getting into a long slump at the plate.
Few players in the game are quicker or more exciting going around the bases than Baldelli.
- Baldelli's final MLB stats were: a .278 career batting average with 60 home runs and 262 RBI in 1,910 at-bats.
- Rocco is a very good outfielder and a pure center fielder.
- His arm is accurate, and he always throws to the right base. However, his delivery is unorthodox. Baldelli, who has a strong arm, often leaves his feet after he lets go of the ball. He's been throwing that way since before high school and has learned to wrap his arm beneath his body so he doesn't get hurt when he lands.
- He definitely has the range to play center. He goes after fly balls gracefully.
- One scout said that Baldelli "has graceful movements, just like Joe DiMaggio. I'm telling you, the more I watched him, the more I thought, 'He moves just like DiMaggio!'" Whoa!
- Baldelli has excellent instincts for the game.
- His arm is close to average.
POST-PLAYING CAREER POSITIONS:
2011: Rocco retired and accepted a position with the Rays as a special assistant.
2015: Baldelli became Rays' manager Kevin Cash's First Base Coach.
October 25, 2018: Rocco was named Manager of the Minnesota Twins.
When Twins pitcher Jake Odorizzi first met the man who would one day become his manager, he didn’t know much about him aside from the most basic biographical details: his name and the fact that he had played baseball.
Rocco Baldelli was part of the Tampa Bay Rays’ front office at the time, and it wasn’t until Baldelli joined the team’s staff before the 2015 season that the two really got to know each other. Baldelli was down to earth and his baseball mind was off the charts, Odorizzi said, and the two formed a bond.
As Baldelli, now 37, started to handle more duties, a future career came into sharper focus.
“I kind of thought to myself, by going back and forth between all the jobs, that probably makes for a good lead-in to being a manager,” Odorizzi said. “He definitely had managerial qualities, the way he was prepared and went about doing first-base coach, outfield coach, baserunning. He was very prepared and very on time with everything.”
Odorizzi was the player most familiar with Baldelli when the Twins introduced him as their 14th manager in team history in late October. But over the course of the spring, Baldelli has had a chance to build relationships with the rest of his team, and the Twins seem to be buying into the environment their new manager is creating.
“(He’s) a great person first of all and a great manager so far,” starting pitcher Jose Berrios said. “He listens to us and that doesn’t mean we are always going to agree but we end up usually being on the same page, so it is good communication both ways.”
Baldelli started the offseason by reached out to all of his players by phone. He traveled to Atlanta to meet with Byron Buxton and to the Dominican Republic to see Miguel Sano, two cornerstones of the franchise. He listened while they talked, and both players came away with positive impressions.
In January, he spent part of a week on the Twins Caravan driving around the state with Berrios and Eddie Rosario, and he met many more players at TwinsFest.
One player he didn’t meet for the first team — first baseman C.J. Cron, who was added after Baldelli was hired — also expressed similar sentiments to Odorizzi. Cron spent a year with Baldelli in Tampa and could also see the managerial qualities.
“You could definitely tell that he had what it takes (to manage). He looks at the analytics stuff, and he’s played before, so he can take those numbers and apply them,” Cron said at TwinsFest. “…He’s one of those guys that seems like he can use a good balance of both. He knows what helps and what doesn’t.”
Seated at a press conference table at the 2018 Winter Meetings in Las Vegas in December, Baldelli was asked what a Baldelli-manged team would look like on the field. He described a loose environment, expressing hope that his team would look like it was having fun. His players would be relaxed and comfortable.
“When you’re comfortable, you play your best,” he said in December. “If you’re tense and you’re locked up, I’ve not seen many people play well in that kind of environment. And I think we’re going to get our best when these guys are freed up in every possible way — on the field, off the field.”
And that’s been evident in spring training. The first few days, players walked around wearing whatever kind of Twins apparel suited their fancy — from T-shirts to hoodies. Whatever they were most comfortable with, Baldelli said, was OK with him.
Over the offseason, Baldelli, bench coach Derek Shelton and the staff spent time restructuring spring training. Come spring, players showed up later to the park. Dead time spent standing around the field was eliminated. Instead, it was get on the field, do your work, work hard and get off. Rest and recovery, the new manager preaches.
Right fielder Max Kepler remarked recently that he doesn’t feel as tired now as he did during past camps. Odorizzi appreciated how his new manager was cognizant of how hard spring training is on a player and was trying to be less demanding.
“I think Rocco’s maintained a level of stability down there … but also gone back and forth with players, gotten feedback from them, made adjustments along the way,” chief baseball officer Derek Falvey said.
‘ON OUR LEVEL -- At 37, Baldelli is the youngest manager in the majors. He is younger than his oldest player, 38-year-old pitcher Nelson Cruz, and it wasn’t that long ago that Baldelli was a player himself.
A highly-touted one at that.
Baldelli was picked sixth overall in the 2000 draft by the Rays and rocketed up prospect lists as scouts praised his raw ability. He debuted in 2003 at 21, hitting .289 his first year. He stole 27 bases, hit 11 home runs and drove in 78 runs in 156 games, finishing third in AL Rookie of the Year voting.
But Baldelli only played in more than 100 games in two — his first two — of his seven seasons in the big leagues, as injuries derailed a promising playing career. After the 2010 season, Baldelli retired, his career cut short by mitochondrial channelopathy, a rare cell disorder that causes muscle fatigue, and he eventually segued to a front-office role.
When Kevin Cash was hired in Tampa as manager, he tabbed Baldelli as his first-base coach. Last season, Baldelli was promoted to serve as the team’s major-league field coordinator. He was a popular managerial choice this offseason, interviewing with multiple teams that had openings despite having no managerial experience himself.
New addition Marwin Gonzalez, who joined the Twins in February, said he loved Baldelli — and thought everybody else did too, praising the manager’s laid-back demeanor.
“He lets us be ourselves,” Gonazlez said. “One thing he wants is for us to give 100 percent and play hard every game.”
While in Tampa, Odorizzi appreciated a coach he could build a relationship with away from baseball. The two played in a fantasy football league for years together.
Baldelli, Odorizzi said, is a “shark” at fantasy football.
“When you can really connect with somebody (it’s) when you’re talking about stuff other than baseball and really getting to know the person as opposed to a coworker or teammate, whatever it is,” Odorizzi said. “It kind of gave us something to bond over back in the day.”
When Baldelli was introduced in Minnesota last fall, the Twins touted his ability to develop relationships with those around him and his willingness to both talk and listen. And his players have seen that first hand.
“Just talking to him, he seems like on our level, like he’s one of us players on the field. And I haven’t really experienced that many times in my career with coaches that are so down to earth,” Kepler said. “The coaches, mostly, they carry the authority of being a coach, which is understandable. But if you have a guy that can manage the team and also be on the level like a teammate, it’s a different type of relationship.” (Betsy Helfland -TwinCities.com - March 2019)
- Ninth grade: Rocco broke his leg playing basketball, a serious break. Doctors thought he had been in a car accident. He shattered the tibia and severed tendons in his left leg. He was in bed for six weeks, had to drop out of school, and repeat his freshman year
- Rocco has had viral meningitis, mononucleosis (mono) and Lyme's disease, at different times during his youth.
- May 2000: Baldelli pulled an oblique muscle in his side (rib cage area).
- 2001: He had minor back and hand injuries.
- June 11, 2004: Rocco suffered a rather minor injury during a game when he awkwardly slammed his non-throwing hand into the 2nd base bag while breaking up a double-play. He suffered a first degree sprain of the ulnar collateral ligament, missing a few games, but not going on the D.L.
- August 14-September 1, 2004: Baldelli was on the D.L. with a strained right quadricep.
November 5, 2004: Rocco underwent surgery on his left knee after injuring it while playing baseball with his 7-year-old brother, Dante, in his backyard in Cumberland, Rhode Island. Dr. Richard Steadman performed the surgery in Vail, Colorado. He was injured on October 24.
"While I was playing with my brother, I jammed my leg," Baldelli said. His knee gave out when he sidestepped to avoid running over Dante in a race for first base. "At the time, I didn't think much of it. I iced it for a few days, but it didn't get any better. Now we will just have to wait and see."
Baldelli then flew to St. Petersburg to have the knee examined by Rays team doctor Koco Eaton and trainer Ken Crenshaw. At that time, it was determined that there was damage and that the best way to proceed was to have Steadman, a renowned knee specialist, perform the operation.
The ACL was discarded and replaced by a graft of Baldelli's left patellar tendon, which connects the kneecap to the shin bone, according to Devil Rays team physician Koco Eaton.
"You take a strip down the middle so as not to weaken the tendon," Eaton said. Small pieces of bone at either end of the tendon are removed and fitted into holes drilled into the top of the shin bone and bottom of the thigh bone. "The holes are drilled right where the ACL originates and where it ends," Eaton said. "The tendon replicates the ligament."
Eaton said the beauty of the procedure is that "the body scars down the area from which the patellar tendon was taken from, so you don't miss that. And the patella graft is actually stronger than the ACL. Some studies have shown it's twice as strong." (Damian Cristodero-St. Petersburg Times-11/6/04)
March 25, 2005: Rocco was on the D.L. while rehabbing his knee. In April, he was transferred from the 15-day D.L. to the 60-day D.L.
March 25-June 7, 2006: Baldelli started the season on the D.L. He completed a rehab stint at AAA Durham and then rejoined the Major League club.
May 17, 2007: Baldelli, who injured his left hamstring while running out an infield ground ball, went on 15-day D.L.
June 19, 2007: On the verge of his return to the Major League club, Rocco tweaked his oft-injured left hamstring leaving the batter's box at AAA Durham. Prognosis is that Baldelli would miss from two to six weeks. Rocco was transferred from the 15-day to 60-day D.L.
March–August 10, 2008: Rocco missed most of spring training and the season on the D.L. because of a condition that left him extremely fatigued after short workouts. Doctors told him he has "some type of metabolic and/or mitochondrial abnormalities." The chronic exhaustion and muscle cramps are because of a cell disorder in which cells do not properly turn food and oxygen into adenosine triphosphate, which produces energy. The primarily genetic condition, which forced the cyclist Greg LeMond to retire in 1994, can appear at any age.
"When I say 'fatigued,' my body is literally spent after a very short amount of time out on the field, which makes it extremely frustrating and difficult, but it's kind of a reality right now,'' he said.
"I feel like I've done a serious workout after a very short period of time, and it's a very odd feeling. I try not to be too dramatic when I explain what's going on, but it's not easy when you're out on the field for a very short period of time and you're done, and you're not really worth anything else out there. That's a tough thing to handle because you wonder why. You wonder why this is how your body feels.'"
There is no cure for the mitochondrial disease—a cell disorder. But Baldelli's daily mix of medications and supplements, increased sleep, better hydration (12 big bottles of water per day), and diet have helped mollify its effects.
December 17, 2008: Doctors at the Cleveland Clinic said that Rocco had been misdiagnosed. They said his problem was channelopathy, a non-progressive, highly treatable disease.
"It's definitely an encouraging development," Baldelli told the St. Petersburg Times.
How do you put his problem in layman's terms? "It's tough," Baldelli said. "I don't know if there is a layman's way to describe it. It's almost impossible. My muscles get tired."
April 21-May 7, 2009: Baldelli was on the D.L. with a strained left hamstring.
August 6-21, 2009: Rocco was on the D.L. with a left ankle contusion. He was injured while taking batting practice and fouled a ball off his ankle.
October 2009: An MRI showed Baldelli had a left hip flexor strain.
October 6, 2010: During an at-bat, Rocco suffered with cramping so severe that he had to be taken off the Rays' AL Division Series roster.