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Five Big Rays Moments With Rocco Baldelli

photo: Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays and Rocco Baldelli will always be connected, as the Twins manager was drafted in the first round of the 2000 Draft by Tampa Bay and made his big league debut three years later.  A mitochondrial disorder would shorten his playing career, but he would join the Rays as a coach and field coordinator before taking the helm in Minnesota.

Let’s take a look at five of the most memorable plays in Baldelli’s career with Tampa Bay.

Baldelli’s Game 7 Single Sends The Rays To The World Series

Most Rays fans will remember Matt Garza‘s incredible start in the Rays’ Game 7 win over the Boston Red Sox in the 2008 American League Championship Series.  They’ll remember rookie David Price striking out J.D. Drew with the bases loaded to end the eighth inning.  They’ll remember Akinori Iwamura stepping on the second base bag to end the game.  But it was Baldelli’s RBI single in the bottom of the fifth inning off Jon Lester that would score Willy Aybar and give Tampa Bay the lead for good.

Setting An MLB Rookie Record For Hits

Baldelli was a highly touted prospect when he made the then-Devil Rays Major League roster to start the 2003 season, but no one imagined that the 21-year-old would come out of the chute the way he did, amassing hit after hit after hit, until on the final day of April, he would take Twins starter Brad Radke deep for his first major league home run and in the process set a new record for the most hits in the month of April by a rookie, as the blast was his 40th hit of the month.

Rocco’s Only Grand Slam Comes Against Twins

Baldelli would hit just one grand slam in his big-league career.  That would come on July 22, 2004, and also occur in the Metrodome.  He would take Juan Rincon deep and erase what was at the time a 5-1 deficit.

A World Series Homer For The Woonsocket Rocket

Baldelli’s only World Series may not have been his best (he ended up going just 1 for 6 in the five-game loss to the Phillies), but the one hit he did have nearly helped force a Game 6 in the series, as his solo homer in the seventh inning off Ryan Madson tied the game up at 3-3.  But that would be the last run Tampa Bay would score in the 2008 postseason, and Philadelphia would break the tie in the bottom of the inning.

Rocco’s First Hit Comes Off A Future Hall-Of-Famer

We saw earlier how his first big-league home run capped off a month where he had 40 hits to set a MLB rookie record that still stands.  The first hit turned out to be pretty important as well, as he laced a double off the great Pedro Martinez in his second career big-league at-bat at Tropicana Field.  It would be the first of what turned out to be 184 hits that season and 531 in his big-league career.

Written By

Steve Carney is the founder and publisher of St. Pete Nine. One of the people most associated with baseball coverage in Tampa Bay, he spent 13 seasons covering the Rays for flagship radio station WDAE, first as producer of Rays Radio broadcasts, then as beat reporter beginning in 2011. He likes new analytics and aged bourbon, and is the owner of one of the ugliest knuckleballs ever witnessed by baseball scouts.

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