The news surrounding former Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz sent shockwaves throughout MLB and Red Sox Nation. Here’s a look at how the man known as Big Papi transcended a historic franchise.
After being acquired via free agency back in 2003, Big Papi David Ortiz quickly emerged through his 14-year tenure as the single most significant player in Boston Red Sox history. Thankfully today he remains in our presence, overcoming a shocking encounter from his homeland, the Dominican Republic last night.
Shocking would be an understatement when describing the news that quickly blew up everywhere online last night. As every other Boston sports fan, I sat and watched as the Bruins pulled off a clutch game six win over the St. Louis Blues when instantly my notifications began to blow up everywhere.
David Ortiz was shot.
The four words that left me in complete and utter shock. In Ortiz’ homeland the Dominican Republic, an armed gunman came from behind Ortiz and shot him, leaving Big Papi in need of instant medical assistance and surgery.
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Luckily today we live to tell the story how David Ortiz overcame a near-death experience and currently remains in full recovery mode.
However, I wanted to take this as an opportunity to not only thank, but pay tribute to the impact that David Ortiz had, transcending Boston’s beloved Red Sox through his time on the field.
A new beginning in Boston
Following the 2002 MLB season, the Minnesota Twins arguably did the Boston Red Sox the biggest favor in baseball history.
Former Twins general manager Terry Ryan still regrets the release of soon-to-be baseball Hall of Famer, David Ortiz, 16 years later. A move that quickly transform one of America’s most sorry franchises to the most spoiled fans in all of sports.
Despite tearing it up in the Minnesota minor league system and putting together seasons of slugger potential like 2002, when Ortiz batted .272 with 20 home runs and 75 runs batted in (a career-high), the Twins cut ties by releasing Ortiz in December, a decision that would soon uplift one designated hitter’s career along with an entire East-Coast sports nation for years to come.
Fellow countryman also from the Dominican Republic, Pedro Martinez used Ortiz’ release as an opportunity to make a franchise-altering proposal to Theo Epstein and the Red Sox front office. Ortiz would get the opportunity, signing a one-year, non-guaranteed deal worth $1.25 million.
Kicking off his debut season with the Boston Red Sox, Ortiz put together his most impressive season at the time- batting .288 with 32 home runs and 101 runs batted in, playing in 128 games. While the season ended in heartbreaking fashion on a cold, October night in New York via a Tim Wakefield knuckleball smacked to deep left in the Yankee Stadium stands.
However, fast-forward one year later to the greatest comeback in the history of sports.
Mr. Clutch emerges
Game four of the American League Championship Series against the Yankees… again. David Ortiz and the Red Sox were on the edge of the mountain, clinging for dear life, down 4-3 and just three outs from yet another elimination.
An extra-inning battle with the one and only Sandman, Mariano Rivera would quickly introduce us all to Mr. Clutch Ortiz, coming through for the Red Sox at the plate when needed the most. One of the most infamous at-bats in Red Sox history, the bottom of the twelve-inning.
A 2-1, 88 MPH pitch from Paul Quantrill which Ortiz took to deep right field, sparking the greatest four October days in the city of Boston’s history, and even earn Ortiz ALCS MVP honors.
We all know where that would lead to. An unforgettable night in St. Louis where David Ortiz would officially transcend his career and the Red Sox entirely. Ortiz slugged five home runs with 19 runs batted in through that 2004 Cinderella playoff run.
The legend grows
Then again in 2007, just three years later in Colorado where it also didn’t come easy for Ortiz and the Red Sox. Manager Terry Francona had veterans such as Ortiz from that 2004 team consult with the young ’07 team with Boston down 3-1 in the ALCS versus the Cleveland Indians. A run that would spark yet another World Series sweep, this time over the Colorado Rockies. A team that had won 13 of their final 14 regular-season games in September, heading into the playoffs.
Despite having established himself as the most important player in Red Sox history, Ortiz found himself hurdling through an epic 2009 swoon to being the ’09 season. Big Papi was anything but himself to kick off the Boston Red Sox 2009 season, batting .206 with not a single home-run hit and 30 strikeouts in the season’s first 34 games.
It wasn’t until May 22 when Ortiz faced Blue Jays pitcher Brett Cecil, that Papi would end a career-high 178 homerless at-bats. This cold streak would lead many in Boston, most notably the media, to write Ortiz off and even go as far as to recommend Ortiz retired due to the slow start.
Thankfully the Red Sox elected not to waiver David Ortiz and seasons such as 2013 would prove why only David Ortiz could say when Big Papi is calling it a career from baseball.
We could begin with his infamous five-word speech following the unforgettable Boston Marathon tragedy, followed by Ortiz completely putting the Boston Red Sox on his back.
Ortiz cements his legacy
Fast-forward to an October, where per usual, Ortiz came through yet again for the Fenway faithful. With the Sox down 1-0 in the series and 5-1 in the eight-inning of game two, Mr. Clutch returned with another vintage Big Papi playoff moment.
Ortiz took Detroit Tigers reliever Joaquin Benoit deep into the Red sox bullpen with the bases loaded, tying the game up at 5-5.
The Red Sox would shift gears, following that very at-bat and take the series in six games. Not too long after that would the Red Sox clinch their eighth franchise World Series title, winning in front of a sold-out Fenway crowd for the first time in 95 years.
David Ortiz led the franchise to three World Series wins, made 10 All-Star appearances in 14 seasons, and even reached the 500 home-run club.
This isn’t the first, nor is it the last time I’ll say it.
Thank you Big Papi.