Rocco Baldelli (born September 25, 1981 in Woonsocket, Rhode Island) is a Major League Baseball player for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Baldelli is a New England area fan favorite and is known for his outstanding speed and throwing ability. His natural position is center field.
Rocco Baldelli graduated from Bishop Hendricken High School in Warwick, Rhode Island. He was a three sport star, excelling at Baseball, Basketball, and Volleyball and was selected in the first round of the 2000 amateur draft. Baldelli made his major league debut on March 31, 2003.
In 2003, he and Hideki Matsui were among the contenders for AL Rookie of the Year. Baldelli was considered the favorite for the first few months of the season as he put up some great numbers, but his consistency did not last while Matsui continued to be a consistent run producer. Matsui - a Japanese baseball star who spent many years in Japan's professional league - and Baldelli both fell short of winning the award, losing out to Angel Berroa of the Kansas City Royals. Several members of the BBWAA contested Matsui's rookie eligibility, and two left him off their ballots, ensuring the win for Berroa.
In 2004, Baldelli had a similar season, batting .280 with 16 home runs and 74 runs batted in.
Baldelli started the 2005 season on the disabled list because he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee while playing baseball with his brother in the offseason. He was initially expected to be back by the All-Star break, but while rehabilitating he injured his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery, which forced him to miss the entire 2005 season.
Baldelli has been likened to the legendary Joe DiMaggio ever since his days as a prep star. This can be attributed to Baldelli's style of play, sharing the same position (centerfield), wearing the same uniform number (5), and even bearing a slight resemblance in physical looks.