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LL Cool J to rock the Trop on Saturday

LL Cool J can't live without baseball

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ST. PETERSBURG -- Unlike several other musical acts who have visited Tropicana Field, LL Cool J won't try to take swings at batting practice.

Nor will the rapper toss Saturday's first pitch, quipping that he would probably "throw it out of the park" or accidentally injure somebody.

Instead, the hip-hop pioneer will let his performance -- as part of the Rays Summer Saturday Night Concert Series presented by Hess Express -- do the talking.

And his career, which has spawned two decades, will do the inspiring.

In explaining his marathon stay atop the music charts, LL Cool J likened releasing a bad album to going through a bad game -- you forget it, and move on.

His advice on longevity could go a long way for the Rays, who have begun to show signs of vulnerability atop the American League East.

"It's a matter of being able to believe in yourself," he said. "Digging deep and keep working toward your goal and maintaining that ambition inside. And that desire -- that deep down desire -- to keep going."

Sage advice from a man who has sold over 15 million albums in the U.S., a man who has achieved success in Hollywood -- he has appeared in 17 films, and the hit T.V. series "In the House" -- and in the fashion industry.

LL Cool J will be performing a free postgame concert following Saturday's Rays-Tigers contest, and the rapper will be a welcome reprieve for the Rays. While the team has struggled on the road, it is a perfect 6-0 in games during the Summer Concert Series.

"I just plan on having a lot of fun," he said. "I want to give [the fans] some classic old school, some new school. ... People can enjoy the music on all different levels."

While it will be LL Cool J's first trip to the Rays' home dome, the media mogul grew up a baseball fan and remembers watching games with his grandfather when he was a young boy living in Queens, N.Y.

"It reminds me a lot of growing up with my grandpa," he said, adding that he is an avid fan of that team on the other side of New York, the Yankees.

Thankfully, he won't have to worry about allegiances on Saturday night, as LL couldn't contain his enthusiasm for St. Petersburg, and has definite plans to be in attendance for the game.

Just don't expect a revisiting of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," a melody he sang in 1996 as part of commercials for Major League Baseball.

"That could potentially hurt album sales," he said with a laugh.

Instead, the rap star is perfectly content being just another awestruck fan until he assumes the stage.

"I know my limitations," he said. "I have a lot of respect for the sport and the athletes that play it."

Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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