Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz doesn’t need a contest to prove he can still hit the long ball.
David Ortiz is a lock to earn a trip to San Diego for this year’s MLB All-Star Game, but the Boston Red Sox designated hitter is planning on sitting back and being a spectator for the festivities the night before the Midsummer Classic.
Big Papi has decided to pass on what would be his last opportunity to participate in the Home Run Derby. In the final season of his career, Ortiz is proving that there is plenty of power left in his bat. His 18 home runs tie him for 9th in the American League, while he leads the league in extra-base hits (50) and OPS (1.103). Those numbers make him an ideal candidate for this challenge, but Ortiz will still decline the invitation. Thanks, but no thanks.
The reason he doesn’t want in on this slug-fest? He has too much else on this plate.
"“No. No, because I have so many things going on over there when I go,” Ortiz explained to reporters, per WEEI’s Rob Bradford. “It’s going to be crazy. The Home Run Derby wears you out. I would like to, but I’ve got so many things lined up. It’s too much.”"
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Ortiz has spoken openly in recent weeks about how exhausting his retirement tour has been. Everyone wants a chance to talk to Big Papi, especially if it may be their last chance. The ceremonies, the gifts, the additional interviews. It’s a lot to deal with, to the point where it has actually taken away from his lengthy pregame rituals that are essential for a man his age to get ready to play.
The attention Ortiz receives during All-Star week will be magnified under the national spotlight, so he expects his time to be limited. Ortiz has participated in the Home Run Derby on four previous occasions, the last of which came in 2010 when he beat out current teammate Hanley Ramirez to win the contest. He enjoys it, but not enough to allow it to take away from his other priorities.
His past experience in the event has also taught him how tiring the Derby can be. This is no regular batting practice, this is a competition where hitters put maximum effort into every swing attempting to put on a show for the fans. It’s enough to wear down anyone, let alone a 40-year old.
"“It’s good for the young guys to do it,” said Ortiz. “It puts you on the map for a minute. Energy is a big part of it. When was the last time you saw a guy my age do it? It takes everything out of you, because you don’t take any cheap swings. Everything has to be powerful. You definitely have to be in your 20’s to do it.”"
The Red Sox have a 23-year old star that is likely to join Ortiz in the All-Star Game, but it doesn’t seem like Mookie Betts has any interest in the Derby either.
"“I don’t think so. I’m not a home run hitter,” said Betts, whose 16 home runs would beg to differ."
Even if neither of these sluggers participates in the Home Run Derby, the Red Sox should still be well represented during All-Star week. Ortiz and Xander Bogaerts have comfortable leads at their positions, while Betts and Jackie Bradley are currently in the top three among AL outfielders.
It looks like we won’t get to see Big Papi launching mammoth shots into the stands during the Home Run Derby ever again, but that’s fine. Red Sox fans would prefer he conserve his energy for the second half of the season. As much fun as it would be to see him swinging for the fences in the Derby, we would much prefer to see him go deep in the World Series.