ST. PETERSBURG -- Rocco Baldelli didn't try to act cool about being asked to throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to Game 4 of the American League Division Series.
"I'm more worried throwing out this first pitch than I was about anything I ever did on the field, I promise," said Baldelli, who despite not playing catch in three years, threw a perfect strike to Rays pitcher David Price on Tuesday night.
A special assistant in Tampa Bay's baseball operations, Baldelli appeared in 457 games with the Rays and 62 with the Red Sox across seven big league seasons, retiring after 2010. The Rhode Island native's once-promising career was cut short by injuries and a rare condition that sapped his energy and affected his muscles, although Baldelli was able to be a part of the Rays' World Series run in '08.
"Every player when their career is winding down, I don't think most guys know what they are going to do. And I was kind in that boat as well," Baldelli said several hours before he took the mound at Tropicana Field. "I was given a real nice opportunity, didn't really know what it was going to grow into. But I like what it's grown into. I get to keep an eye on everything going on in the organization from amateur scouting to the Minor Leagues to our big league team. I get to work with good people. So, that's all I could ask for."
Baldelli threw out a first pitch a few years ago, when he joked his arm was in much better condition, and said Tuesday he'd make sure to appreciate his moment in front of the sold-out crowd.
"Everyone here, they've done a lot for me, the team and all the people. So to be able to go out there and go out in front of the fans and be acknowledged on one day, on a big day like this, it's nice," said Baldelli, who was joined by senior advisor Don Zimmer, who stood behind Price.
"It's one of those things, when you are playing, you are busy, you don't have time to do a lot of things. You are busy just trying to perform and going out there and playing well. This is one of the rare occasions where you can go out there and enjoy it and wave to all the people."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.