And I want these words to make things right, but it’s the wrongs that makes the words come to life

Rocco Baldelli screengrabbed by me

After I saw Rocco Baldelli at the Boston Baseball Writer’s dinner earlier this month, I wrote to friends that he was “…officially my 2009 player no one shall badmouth in front of me lest I punch them in the throat”.

I tend to get protective of the players I favor. And I tend to favor the players who come across as genuinely good guys (which will explain why I am still a fan of Kyle Snyder even though he isn’t signed anywhere yet – and will continue to be regardless of where he ends up signing).

At the dinner, Rocco was gracious and appreciative and seemed a little overwhelmed. I didn’t know it at the time, but the Red Sox had introduced him earlier that evening and announced that he’d be wearing the number “5”. Rocco knew that the Sox hadn’t given that number out since Nomar wore it in 2004 and had the proper perspective on his being allowed to take it over:

“It was brought to my attention that obviously this has always been a special number in this town and I recognize that as much as anybody …” Baldelli said. “I accept it and I think it’s great and I am very happy about it.”

I defy you to listen to Rocco speak for a few minutes without coming away thinking he’s a good guy with his head on straight. And true to that, the word has spread that Rocco took out an ad thanking the Rays fans in today’s St. Petersburg Times. You can see a copy of the ad here.

To the fans of Tampa Bay.

Nine years ago you welcomed me into your community. You greeted me as a name and embraced me as a person and I leave you now as a friend.

Giving thanks is a difficult thing to do as I have crossed paths with so many extraordinary people, but I will try.

I will always think of the Tampa Bay area as my second home and I would like to thank everyone for accepting me and for making my time here as enjoyable as it was.

I will never forget.

Thank you once again.

This ad in the paper was a handwritten note and it’s obviously heartfelt. I hope the Rays fans appreciate the person Rocco seems to be. This isn’t Johnny Damon shooting off an ad after getting ripped by the media and the fans and hoping to mend some fences or save some face. The Rays didn’t intend to re-sign Rocco and he knew it. He signed with a team he knows a lot of Rays fans won’t be very happy about. Rays/Sox isn’t quite Yankees/Sox, but there’s a lot of bad blood there. So instead of ignoring it. Instead of jumping on a place out of Florida and forgetting where he came from, he does this. I hope it helps smooth things over for the Tampa Bay fans who were so upset with him for going to the Red Sox.

Rocco continues to impress me and he hasn’t even played a game for the Red Sox yet.

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