Troubling times for Rocco Baldelli

Here’s a story that, while it might not have been on your radar and television screen; it is still very interesting.

Rocco Baldelli has had problems staying on the field the past few seasons. In Tampa Bay, this guy is a monstrous disappointment because of the amounts of potential he showed early in his career (when gas was only approaching $2.00 a gallon) and his inability to deliver after signing a lucrative multi-year deal. Rays fans have even speculated the oft-injured Baldelli was a steroid user.

This year he planned a full comeback and was set to try and become an everyday player again, but Baldelli’s body wouldn’t cooperate. In spring training he tired with any amount of workload and basically couldn’t function. He knew something was off and after a vast array of tests by medical physician, Baldelli has been diagnosed with mitochondrial disorder.

He doesn’t know if he’ll ever be the same or what the future holds:

Q: What is your long-term prognosis of your condition?
A: I don’t know what the long-term prognosis is. I don’t think the doctors have complete knowledge of it because I think everyone’s case is different. I think you stick with the treatments that they give you and see where it goes. There’s no real way to know what its going to mean five or 10 years from now. It’s not something I try to dwell on or think about too much anyways.

Q: Your goal is to become a full-time player again?
A: Obviously, but I don’t know if that’s completely realistic. I don’t know if it’s something you can completely recover from. It took me awhile to come to terms with that. I don’t know if that’s 100-percent the case, but I think it’s the case. Really, it was tough at first, but I think its something I’ve learned to live with and deal with and I’m OK with it.

Though this doesn’t appear to be life-threatening it is scary nonetheless. Here you have a strong young ballplayer in the prime of his career and his life, and he’s stricken with illness. It really can happen to anyone.

Who knows, maybe this story ends with the storybook Rays getting into the World Series and Baldelli somehow finding his health in time to make the postseason roster. Baldelli steps to the plate as a late pinch-hitter in the clinching game and delivers the hit that wins the Rays their first championship. The irony would be rich. This game has a long history of making moments like that though.