Papi Sweet Papi: David Ortiz the Man on A Mission
Okay, while I did introduce myself in my first article, I did forget to mention a few things like for instance what sports teams I root for and why. Well obviously being 20 minutes outside of Buffalo, I have a tough time rooting for any other professional football team but the Bills. Wide Right and The Music City Miracle only add fuel to the fanhood for me. But onto the subject matter.
If I am a hometown guy that roots for the hometown team, why on earth am I a Red Sox fan? Growing up in a baseball family with my grandfather being a coaching icon and my father pitching me batting practice almost everyday with some “catch” mixed in, baseball has been a part of my life since day 1. As a boy, I idolized my grandfather for the way children looked up to him as a coach, and as a man. And when I learned pretty quick which Major League Baseball team my grandfather liked, I knew that was the team I was going to like, and that team is The Boston Red Sox. Wade Boggs, Jim Rice, Yaz, and Ted Williams were his favorite players.
Now the reason he was a Red Sox fan. The story goes that his father had bought tickets for a Red Sox vs Indians game, a rare, rare occassion for a family that didn’t have much. While everyone was cheering for the Indians my grandfather saw Ted Williams stay more than an hour after the game signing autographs. He admired that and the rest was history. The Ted Williams fanhood started and throughout his coaching days and his life he would often be wearing the blue cap with the red B, no matter what color the team uniform was for his little league teams. Baseball is one of, if not my favorite sports not just because of the game, but because the game has provided me with some of the best moments with my grandfather and in my life. Whether that be playing baseball, or watching it.
The first season that comes to my mind is 2003. That final game of the season for the Red Sox ultimately ended with Aaron Boone’s walkoff home run. Although the season was over at the end of the night, my grandpa and I looked at each other and said almost at the same time…wait until next year. His exact words were “we are coming for them”. The “them” was the Yankees and the story is well documented, one year after the season was ended with one Boone swing, the Red Sox were down three games to none to their bitter rival the New York Yankees. The final score for the 3rd game, and the second to last nail in the coffin for the Red Sox in that series, ended up 9-8. Hope was little, but then came a man that had come through time and time again during the regular season, now it was his time to do it in the post season.
David Ortiz did that in 2004. Hitting 41 HR’s with 139 RBI, with a batting average of .301. Now, 12 years later, and Ortiz has three world series titles, nine All-Star appearances, a World Series MVP, and he is also first all-time in home runs (457), runs batted in (1,475), and hits (2,074) by a DH. I can honestly say that in 2004, David Ortiz single-handedly provided me with some of my best memories watching sports, and in particular, watching baseball with my Grandfather. He loved the game, he loved the Red Sox, and the only thing he wanted as a sports fan besides the Buffalo Bills winning a Super Bowl, was to see the Boston Red Sox break the curse. We watched in awe of David Ortiz in the most unbelievable, unfathomable, pressure filled moments, Ortiz acted like it was nothing and simply dominated.
So when people ask me why I “like” baseball, I simply tell them as I tell you readers now…baseball has provided me with some of the best moments of my life. As a fan, and as a player. There are a select few players that I hold in high regard for providing me with great memories of their respective greatness. David Ortiz is right at the top. Thank You Papi!
But, back to David Ortiz in 2016. On his 40th birthday, November 18th, 2015, Ortiz made a BIG announcement( no pun intended). Number 34 said that the 2016 season would be his last. As a fan, I felt immediate sadness because being a Red Sox fan my whole life, nobody has captured my attention more than Ortiz. The first time I ever saw him play, he was pinch hitting in 2003. I was eleven. This big man steps up to the plate and I think who is this chubby guy? What can he do to help the Red Sox win? He sure can’t steal bases, he can’t hit! The stat line said his batting average was .098. First pitch was a blast deep deep deep to right field, over the seats, that ball is OUTTA HERE!! My grandfather said holy cow he drilled that ball! From that moment on, I knew we would definitely see more of him.
Now, 12 years later, knowing I won’t see David Ortiz next year, it’s not only the ending of a great career, but it’s the ending of making new memories from a player to a fan. Fortunately, Ortiz at again age 40, has continued to provide me with those same memories he did when my grandfather was here almost in a nostalgic way. I see Ortiz hitting the same bombs in the most pressured situations possible. Still single-handedly winning games the same way he did in 2004, the same way Ortiz has throughout his career with the Red Sox.
It’s not just the little things, take yesterday for example, Ortiz went 4-for-4 while some people would think the retirement is the end of his prime, David Ortiz look’s to be playing in his prime at age 40. This is a ‘Man on a Mission’ to go out on top, to end his career with a story book ending, with his fourth World Series Championship, but more importantly this is a icon that has the desire to continue creating one last season of memories for the fans. This isn’t the end of just a player’s career, this is the end of an astonishing career that I don’t believe we will ever see the likes of again. A player that was a castoff, signed by a team that was in the middle of what most baseball fan’s considered to be a “curse” for every timelessly bad move since trading Babe Ruth, there are timelessly great moves in signing David Ortiz.
There were moments my grandpa never thought he would see. A Red Sox World Series victory once, let alone twice. He did learn to ‘keep the faith’. I have Big Papi to thank for that, and also providing him that moment in the 2007 World Series vs Colorado, which as the year passed, that was the last World Series my grandpa ever watched. He defined it as one of the happiest sports moments of his life. While it’s only May, and anything can happen this season, one thing I know for sure, Big Papi is a ‘Man on a Mission’. To defy the odds and continue to inspire. But if this is the case, I consider that mission, a MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.
Ryan Thomas covers MLB for MyFantasySportsTalk.com
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