For Baldelli, it's been one step up, two steps back
TAMPA, Fla. -- In some respects, it is just another night at Tropicana Field.The Tampa Bay Rays are going through their normal batting practice paces under the watchful eye of manager Joe Maddon. With his funky horn-rimmed glasses and his decidedly erudite air, Maddon looks like an engineer on-site at a construction project. Come to think of it, perhaps that's true. In front of the home dugout, Dick Vitale -- ubiquitous as ever and no stranger to hyperbole -- is gushing about phenom third baseman Evan Longoria, invoking comparisons to Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt. But elsewhere, Tropicana Field has been transported to some parallel universe. Down the right-field line, camera crews dot foul territory, a few of them from networks. The Boston Red Sox are in town and, as usual, their backers are making themselves seen and heard in the stands.
Who said life was fair? And who said baseball was any better?Felled by a succession of injuries -- both major and minor -- Baldelli has played a grand total of 127 games in the past three seasons combined. In the span of a few months, he blew out a knee and an elbow. Little did he know those would be relatively simple setbacks. Since then, Baldelli has been victimized -- again and again -- by muscle and hamstring pulls. Then, this past spring, he began feeling fatigued at the slightest exertion of energy. Light jogging would leave him feeling like he had run a marathon. Talk spread that he had multiple sclerosis. Instead, extensive tests -- conducted across the country, by a variety of specialists -- revealed that he was suffering from a mitochondrial disorder, a neuromuscular disease. Some mystery remains, and Baldelli himself admits the diagnosis isn't fully complete. But at least the doctors and Baldelli have an idea what they're dealing with. They've prescribed a few different cocktails of medicine, and lately, seem to have hit on one that works.
Even with the physical improvements made of late, Baldelli has come to accept that "my body is not going to feel like it did five years ago, or even two years ago. But I feel I can still contribute."Baldelli's energy is better and his strength is returning, even if his swing and baseball skills seem to come and go. In a recent Single A rehab stint, he homered one night, and struck out four times the next.
There's no way to quantify frustration. Every time I thought I was frustrated, little did I know I would be more frustrated in the
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