With 2016 being the last season before he retires, Ortiz’s status as the face of the franchise will soon be no more. His spirit will be hard to replace.
Ortiz has meant so much to the Boston Red Sox, on and off the field. His accomplishments with the bat are amazing, arguably making him the best designated hitter to ever play the game and a guaranteed Hall-of-Famer. At the age of 40, Ortiz is projected to hit at least another 90 RBIs for the Red Sox in his final year. However, his actions without the bat may have been even more significant.
There’s a good reason why Ortiz is affectionately nicknamed ‘Big Papi’. Whatever the purpose was when the name was first coined, Ortiz has been the loveable father-figure to not only his teammates but also the entire city of Boston:
His love of every Bostonian made the native of Santo Domingo move himself and his family to Massachusetts full-time. It would have been easier for him to have his family live some place where the weather is always perfect, safe, and secure. He could have had his three children going to school in a community where they know nothing of Red Sox baseball and wouldn’t have to listen to any negativity stemming from a bad performance from their father or the team. Instead, he brought his family to the harsh winters and even harsher tongues of the Massachusetts citizens.
Why? Well, when family gets on your case, it’s just tough love. You don’t run from it; you accept it and love them for it.
That was all too true when Ortiz spoke alone on the field in Fenway Park, the cathedral of Boston. It was after the Boston Marathon bombing, with everyone in a panic, especially in the city itself. People tried to rally behind the social media hashtag #BostonStrong, but Ortiz decided to give a little encouragement of his own. When the people needed one of their own to respond, it was Ortiz who grabbed the microphone and brought Boston’s collective hearts together as only a Bostonian could.
After the speech, Ortiz made a published statement to clarify his reasoning: “I was just expressing what I was feeling: I was looking for a hero to protect what was ours. Our city. Our Marathon. Our way of life. When I said what I said and I saw the look in people’s eyes, I knew we would be all right.” Yes, he swore during the speech. Yes, he showed anger and frustration. He also showed his Bostonian heart that day, expressing what everyone in the city was feeling that day. By saying that it was ‘our city’, he made it personal. It wasn’t just some celebrity telling everyone to do the right thing; it was one of their own telling them that they will get through the tragedy together. That’s what heroes do: they make the focus on the people, their teammates of life, to make them stronger and perform better in the real world.
The David Ortiz Children’s Fund is another example. Founded in 2007, the charity helps children in both Boston and the Dominican Republic in a wide variety of needs and resources. Many athletes have a number of charities that they work with, but Big Papi picked to work with children. The big daddy helps all of these young boys and girls, as any good father would try to do, showing the personality trait that he projects the most, once again.
However, sometimes fathers are also known to get angry to try to light a fire under their children for motivational purposes. Never was that more clear than in the fall of 2013, with the Red Sox in the playoffs and battling for a championship. At one point in the dugout, Ortiz sat the rest of his players around him and gave them a verbal lecture with a lash of his tongue that they will never forget. The media crews covered the scene extensively, discussing the pros and cons of such an action. The Red Sox players sat and took it, as they knew that it was Ortiz’s heart that was flowing over them, not just angst and tyranny. Sometimes, tough love hurts and you are better for it.
Yet, tough love works better when the one providing it leads by example, a role model for the course of action needed. Ortiz did just that. The nine-time All-Star put the team on his back that season, hitting .688 in the World Series with two home runs and six RBIs. His performance earned him a third World Series championship and the award for being the most valuable player. The team rallied together, but if it wasn’t for Ortiz’s fatherly guidance the team may never have recovered from their early struggles.
The man with the big smile and the even bigger stick has hit 445 home runs and 1 403 RBIs in a Red Sox uniform. Ortiz has been there for the city of Boston at the plate, in the dugout, and in their hearts when they needed him. He has brought the kind of joy most people could only find at Christmas, when a certain man in a red uniform leaves gifts for every girl and boy. Ortiz’s gifts have made the spirit in each Bostonian cheer, cry, laugh, and even glow for 13 years. He was able to be that father-figure whether in the spring, summer, fall, or winter, not just one day of the year.
When Big Papi finally leaves the field at the end of 2016, what will this mean to Boston? Through his ties to the community and the team itself, Ortiz will never be gone completely. He will spread his magic, as only he can, to everyone around him. However, as far as the face of the franchise goes, Ortiz will be leaving some mighty big shoes to fill for the rest of the Red Sox roster. The young and old love seeing Ortiz’s smile because of what it means to them. The joy he brings doesn’t come simply from a home run or a championship; it comes from being someone who genuinely cares about the people and who wants to see everyone with their hands raised in victory together. That’s what a good father does and that’s what makes Big Papi Ortiz truly remarkable to us.