ST. PETERSBURG — Every day for the past four years, ever since an unusual illness began wearing him down, Rocco Baldelli thought hard about what he would do when his playing career was over.
He considered business ventures, perhaps with his entrepreneurial father Dan, or going to college, but never came up with an answer. With his retirement made official in a Wednesday announcement, Baldelli realized it was right in front of him the whole time.
"Not that I know a lot, but what I know the best is baseball," Baldelli said. "It's been my life for the last 18 years and it's been a constant on my mind."
Baldelli, 29, is eager to learn more about the game, and the Rays have already put him to work as a special assistant to baseball operations with responsibilities in scouting and player development.
"From the day he signed here in 2000, Rocco has earned the respect and admiration of both his peers and our fans," executive vice president Andrew Friedman said in a statement. "Though his playing career has ended, he will continue to make a tremendous impact on the Rays organization. His feel and passion for the game are outstanding, and we're thrilled to have him in this role."
Baldelli is equally excited by and grateful for the chance, thanking Friedman repeatedly for his continued support.
"This isn't a normal opportunity," he said. "I realize this isn't something every former player gets to do. This is pretty special."
Baldelli's duties will include roving coaching stints in the minor leagues, scouting amateurs for the upcoming draft and other assignments, similar to what he did for a few months last year before his final comeback.
While acknowledging the sadness and emotion that come with giving up playing as a result of illness and numerous injuries, he said he was "extremely proud" of what he did during his eight years in the majors and was going forward happily.
Also, in good humor. Asked about the scar and four stitches above his right eyebrow, he said: "I walked into a cabinet in my own house, which I guess is fitting."
Around the majors
PITCHER RETIRES: Left-hander Mike Maroth, the last pitcher to lose 20 in a season, retired after a six-year big-league career. Maroth, 33, went 9-21 in 2003 and last appeared in the majors in 2007.
D'BACKS: Starting catcher Miguel Montero agreed to a one-year, $3.2 million contract.
REDS: Right-hander Johnny Cueto, 24, finalized a $27 million, four-year contract, avoiding arbitration.
YANKEES: Former Cy Young Award winner Bartolo Colon, out of the majors since 2009, agreed to a minor-league contract. The right-hander, 37, last pitched for the White Sox.
Information from Times wires was used in this report.