Red Sox David Ortiz Begins Farewells In Montreal

Mar 28, 2016; Fort Myers, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz (34) poses for a photo with his number 34 painted on the grass prior to the game against the Baltimore Orioles at JetBlue Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 28, 2016; Fort Myers, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz (34) poses for a photo with his number 34 painted on the grass prior to the game against the Baltimore Orioles at JetBlue Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The goodbyes for Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz were always expected to be coming this season, but not to the extent from the Montreal crowd.

Many fans in Florida expressed their heart-felt thanks to Big Papi before the Red Sox went to Quebec, Canada for a two-game spring training series with the Toronto Blue Jays. However, the outpouring of emotions that the fans in Montreal gave Ortiz for two straight days was possibly even more amazing.

Ian Browne of covered the series, stating that Ortiz “was so moved by the thunderous ovation from the Montreal crowd that he doffed his helmet while taking it all in during the top of the first inning.” It was the second standing ovation that Ortiz has had in the first inning in two days. Browne added that “such emotion isn’t often seen during Spring Training games. And it was another example that this weekend’s two-game set at Olympic Stadium […] felt nothing like Spring Training.”

The two-game series had a combined 106 102 people in attendance. Just over 53 000 stood up and cheered for Ortiz, a man from the Dominican Republic whose only connection to Montreal are the times that he has visited the place. Ortiz never played against the Montreal Expos, the team that relocated to Washington D.C. in 2004 and became the Nationals, so there wasn’t even a respect for a rivalry opponent there. The emotions from the French-Canadians were sheer respect for the man himself.

Ortiz was as shocked as anyone else: “‘It’s nice. I have never been able to play here in Montreal before, and to get that ovation from the fans, it is an appreciation and I was more than happy. It’s an honor to be here,’ said Ortiz. ‘But thank you very much. [The reception] was surprising.'”

Speaking as a Canadian, I must take the time to step out of my own ‘fourth wall’ here as a writer to say that, although many people were surprised at the reception, this act is definitely consistent with a Canadian crowd. Especially in Montreal.

First of all, the Montreal fans would have appreciated the fact that Ortiz welcomed and made friends with their adopted son Pedro Martinez, their only Cy Young Award winner who was traded to the Red Sox in late 1997, when the Expos’ franchise started to crumble. The validation of Martinez’s talent in the Red Sox World Series championship run of 2004 felt like validation for the Expos believing in him in 1994, when the Los Angeles Dodgers and practically every other team lost faith in him. Yes, Ortiz likely took kindly to Martinez because of their Dominican connection, but many people from Montreal would also see it as a very Canadian thing to do, as well.

Then comes how Ortiz approached his life in a new city. With so many Canadian families, including my own, that came to this new land as poor immigrants who had to find their own ways to succeed and prosper, Ortiz set up shop to provide his services away from his own home town. He did it in a very similar fashion: staying true to his roots but also declaring that he was as much a Bostonian as families living in the city at the time of the first settlers. He did it with such passion and determination, especially just after the Boston Marathon bombing and during the 2013 World Series run, that nobody would question his loyalty or love for his home.

It’s that love of family and country that Canadians, including the people of Montreal, respect and admire. Those values match those who live every day in Quebec, a province that has seen its share of violence and discrimination. To this day, Quebec citizens feel the need to show their French roots and yet also their loyalty to Canada in everything that they do. They have felt the sting of prejudice from Americans and English-speaking Canadians throughout the country’s history, and they have had their own athletes, like Montreal Canadiens legend Maurice Richard, speak out against tyranny and injustice. Ortiz’s words on the field, after the disaster in Boston, and in the dugout, that spurred his teammates to victory, felt very similar.

As much as Ortiz and many people in the United States may have felt surprised at the level of emotions coming from the fans in Olympic Stadium, many Canadians think that it is just another example of who we are. The nine-time All-Star is about to give 20 years of his life to Major League Baseball, not counting all of the years before that playing the sport itself, and the quality of those years deserves public displays of respect.

Here’s a man who refused to stay quiet and back down when the opposition, both on and off of the field, looked to have the upper hand. Here’s a man who fought for everything that he earned, and did it with a smile and compassion for his teammates and the city of Boston, his new family. Ortiz may be from the Dominican Republic and he may consider himself a Bostonian, but we see much of his core values as very Canadian. For that, why wouldn’t we stand up and cheer for him?