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First Person

Rocco's Road

A mysterious ailment almost ended Rhode Island son Rocco Baldelli's career. Now, the newest Sox outfielder is just happy to be playing.

By Shaun Tolson
April 12, 2009
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Where did the name "Rocco" come from? It's a family name. Especially being down South for the last eight years or traveling around the country, there are not too many people with that name anywhere.

What excites you about playing for the Sox? You want to be in a situation where you can win and be around good people. I think this is about as good a situation as you can get, as far as those two things go.

Are you nervous about the added pressure that comes with playing for a team with a longstanding, passionate fan base? I'm not really worried about that. I'm from the area. I understand, at least a little bit, what comes with being part of the Red Sox. Being around my family and friends -- which is a positive thing -- that could be tough to deal with.

With the Devil Rays and Red Sox developing a rivalry in recent seasons, is it difficult as a player to suddenly switch sides? I really don't think so. I can't tell you how many people I've talked to who have much stronger feelings about it than I do. There's something that doesn't even cross my mind, to be honest with you. We did play some really good baseball against each other last year, but I think that's a good thing. That's a healthy thing.

You had a high school GPA over 4.0 and tutored kids in physics. What would you have pursued as a career if it weren't for baseball? My original goal was to play basketball and baseball and go to an Ivy League school and see what happened. My goal wasn't always to play professional baseball. I try to be a realist. Playing Major League Baseball isn't a given for very many people out there, so I figured I'd plan for the school.

A lot of Red Sox fans have fond memories attached to the last player who wore No. 5. What are your thoughts on wearing it next? I've worn 5 my entire career over in Tampa. I know the history of this organization and Nomar wearing the number. I wasn't going to go out of my way and ask for it. But it was offered to me as an option . . . so I accepted.

You were a three-sport star in high school, playing baseball, basketball, and volleyball. You don't hear of many baseball players also playing volleyball. You don't hear about that many people playing volleyball period. By the time my senior year came around, it was probably my best sport. I was probably more successful at playing volleyball in high school than I was at playing baseball.

What's the most underappreciated thing about Rhode Island? The food in Rhode Island is excellent. I enjoy going home to eat. I'm a big fan of good food.

Do you know your way around the kitchen? I cook egg sandwiches; they're my specialty. [Laughs.] I basically eat out three meals a day, except for when I'm making egg sandwiches.

I've heard you have a 40-inch vertical leap. If that's true, do you think you'd be able to clear Dustin Pedroia? I'm not sure it was ever that high. It's not as high now as it once was, so I don't think I can jump over anyone, to be honest with you. If I was challenged to do that, I don't think that it would turn out pretty.

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