On Wednesday, the Tampa Bay Rays' Rocco Baldelli is expected to retire, reports the St. Petersburg Times. Only 29 years of age, Baldelli plans on working in the Rays' front office.
"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."
Baldelli suffers from a channelopathy-related illness, which saps strength from the muscles and diminishes stamina. The disease is not life-threatening, and there is no reason for concern for his overall long-term health, but he cites it as the reason for his retirement.
The illness, first identified as a mitochondrial issue in 2007, has significantly impacted Baldelli's career. After being selected by the Rays in the first round of the 2000 draft, Baldelli made his debut in 2003 and took the league by storm, hitting .364 in his first month. After 2004, however, he would never play 100 games in a season again.
Baldelli did fight back the illness for long enough to produce some memorable moments for the Rays, however:
Atop that list, Baldelli said, was being part of the Rays' run to the 2008 World Series. "That made my career," he said. As for top individual moment, when pressed, he passed over two dramatic 2008 postseason home runs for the fifth-inning single that put the Rays ahead to stay in the pennant-clinching Game 7 of the American League Championship Series.
Baldelli is a favorite of fans all across the league. For more on his expected retirement, check in with our Tampa Bay Rays blog, DRaysBay.