It's not often I'll bring up an average MLB player retiring, however Baldelli's retirement holds some significance for me.
I was just wrapping up my grade ten year of High School when Baldelli was taken with sixth pick in the 2000 draft's first round by the Devil Rays. I remember the hype around him being huge and picking up his chrome RC, which I no longer have.
Once Baldelli made it to the majors in 2003 with the Devil Rays, my baseball talent had improved to the point where I actually considered a career in baseball a possibility. At the time I compared my style to Baldelli's offensively: able to hit for average, drive in runs, score runs, steal bases and decent power but not a major home run threat.
While Baldelli found success again in his second season, any chance I had at a baseball career had gone down the tubes when I suffered a serious arm injury. For parts of 5 more years I tried to recover my arm strength enough to jump start my baseball experience, but it never happened.
Baldelli's career took a dive in 2005 and he never recovered. He missed all of the 2005 season recovering from knee surgery and returned in 2006 batting .302 in half a season. His career seemed back on track.
In 2007 Baldelli was diagnosed with mitochondrial disorder,which causes serious leg pain and fatigue. He hung on for three more seasons as a different player and finally retired.
I think about all the promise Baldelli had and I'll aways wonder about the career he could have had if he had been healthy.