The Washington Times - October 22, 2008, 06:49PM

Rocco Baldelli will be one of the stories America will hear about during this World Series between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Tampa Bay outfielder has a human interest story that will grab people’s hearts — the one-time Rhode Island schoolboy star and young phenom who has been struck by a rare muscle disease that nearly ended his career. As it is now, he is hardly cured, but has learned to manage it well enough to be a role player for the Rays; he drove home the go-ahead run in the Rays 3-1 win over the Boston Red Sox in game seven of the American League Championship Series.

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He may also be the first Rocco to play in a World Series. The best known Rocco in baseball was Rocco Colavito, and he never made it to a World Series. There may have been other Roccos who have played in the series, but none come to mind.

It is ironic that a Rocco will be playing in the World Series in Philadelphia this weekend, but not for Philly, whose best known fictional citizen is Rocco “Rocky” Balboa.

All this is near and dear to me, because I have a son I named Rocco. He is named after an uncle of mine, a tough Italian from Brooklyn. It is a name that often elicits a response from people. Once, when he was a young boy, I called his name in a department store and a man came over and marveled as his name, saying he wished he had named his son Rocco. Another time when I called his name in a pizza parlor, the owner gave him free pizza and told him he should be proud of his name.

And a few years ago, he managed to make a name for himself on the first day of his summer internship because of his name. Tony Tavares, then president of the Washington Nationals, returned a call one time to my home, and my son Rocco answered the phone. At first Tavares thought it was me, but then my son identified himself as Rocco, Tavares was taken with the idea that my son’s name was Rocco. A few months later, Rocco started a summer internship job in Silver Spring, and it just so happened on the first day of the job, the office was going to a Nationals game at RFK Stadium in one of the party suites. When I saw Tavares that day and told him that Rocco was at the game and where he was, he had someone go and get him. Then Tavares gave Rocco a behind-the-scenes tour, and later, when Rocco returned to the party suite, sent down some free souvenirs for the group.

Needless to say, Rocco made a big impression his first day on the job — all because his name was Rocco. So I will be pulling for Rocco Baldelli in this series, because he carries with him a good name.

Loverro on the radio

I will be on The Sports Reporters on ESPN 980 AM on Monday, Oct. 27, from 5 to 7 p.m.

To learn more about Thom Loverro, go to www.thomloverro.com