Baldelli thanks Rays fans

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- He's headed off to play for the rival Boston Red Sox now, but former Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Rocco Baldelli wants Rays fans to know how much he appreciated their support the past nine years.

Baldelli, who played in the World Series after missing most of last season because of a mitochondrial disorder that causes fatigue, took out a half-page ad in the St. Petersburg Times to express his gratitude this week.

"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," the sixth player selected in the 2000 amateur draft said in the handwritten ad, which appeared in Wednesday's editions.

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

Baldelli, who grew up in Rhode Island, agreed to a $500,000, one-year contract with the Red Sox this month. He went on to say that he'll always consider the Tampa Bay area his second home.