The first pitch ceremony, when not honoring some corporate sponsor, can be a touching moment. It is a chance for people who have important charitable work to get some recognition, or a celebration of former greats of the team to get one more cheer from the home crowd. But on rare occasions, that ceremonial pitch can be a reminder of what could have been. That was the case with Rocco Baldelli throwing out the opening pitch last night.
At just 32 years of age, Baldelli should be entering the end of his prime. If things had gone as expected, he would be a multiple time All-Star player who would have been a multi-dimensional threat on the diamond. Someone that would have been a threat to not only hit the ball out of the yard, but to be able to manufacture a run with his speed. At least, that was the plan.
Instead, after three promising seasons, Baldelli became increasingly injury prone. Originally misdiagnosed with mitochondrial disease, it was discovered in 2008 that Baldelli suffered from a form of channelopathy, a debilitating muscle condition. After spending parts of the next three seasons with the Rays and the Red Sox before retiring due to his condition, and accepting a position with the Rays front office.
With his ties to both the Rays and the Red Sox, Baldelli was a perfect choice to throw out the ceremonial first pitch last night. However, that moment also served as a sad reminder that, even though a prospect may seem destined for greatness, everything can change in the blink of an eye. Sometimes, through circumstances beyond anyone’s control, things just do not turn out as planned.
Rocco Baldelli could have been a superstar. Instead, he is someone that Rays fans look back upon and wonder what could have been.