Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz has put on a show in Toronto over his long career. Will he do the same in, possibly, his final game in Canada?
Red Sox fans have similar stories: it’s late in the game and Big Papi Ortiz steps up to the plate with a purpose. He furrows his brow, the smile wiped from his face, and sheer determination remains in his hands. The opposing pitcher starts to sweat just a little bit extra, because he knows that Ortiz could punish any mistake that he makes with one swing of the bat. The pitch comes and the thick lumber makes solid contact that reverberates throughout the ballpark. Ortiz pauses for a moment, being the first to see the ball carry over the defense at a rocket’s pace. Then, the smile returns a bit, allowing for joy to fill his heart, as Ortiz rounds the bases. His Red Sox teammates and fans celebrate passionately, making their collective voices heard that they are thankful that their leader brought them to victory that day.
The only difference is that it’s my story in the Rogers Centre, or SkyDome, or whatever one wants to call it. Not Fenway Park.
Years ago, in the middle of September, I was starting my job as a high school teacher and was asked if I wanted to go to Toronto to see the Red Sox play the Blue Jays. My future best man at my wedding had tickets along the first base line, up close, to watch my favorite team play the ‘home-town’ team. I was cautious because it was a school night, meaning that I would have to wake up the next day very early to make sure that I was ready to teach 90 students how to do essays or some other English assignment.
That caution lasted all of five seconds. Of course I was going to accept the ticket and represent Red Sox Nation that night. It’s not like I could just go to Fenway when I felt like it.
What proceeded was pretty typical for Canadians, followed by moments of regret for me. I wore my Red Sox jersey to the game, which got a sea of blue glaring in my direction. The glares turned into short heckles, telling me to “take that dirty, stinkin’ shirt off!” The heckles turned into large boos from the crowd the farther I walked down the grey steps to almost the first row, so close to the Blue Jays players that I could almost sense their own disgust with me. I loved every minute of it. Canadians like to boo anyone not supporting the country’s only MLB team, but they always laugh after they do it and say, “No worries, bud. It’s all in good fun. Right?” Sometimes, they even shake my hand afterwards.
I highly doubt that would happen in Yankee Stadium.
The regret that I felt while watching the game wasn’t because of the fans; it was because the game was still tied after a number of extra innings. The game started at 7:07 p.m. but was reaching midnight, and the drive back home from Toronto was going to be in traffic gridlock that would add more time to the usual 50 minutes to get there.
I was looking for a miracle, and I got it. As soon as Ortiz destroyed a pitch over the right-field fence, deep into the stands, I stood straight up and said, “It’s a sign. The game’s over. We got to go home now.” My buddy was in the midst of his angst over the play when he heard me. He looked up and, at first, he wanted to protest that the Blue Jays still had a chance to hit. Then, he looked at his watch and shrugged in agreement. We listened on the radio to the rest of the game in the car: the Blue Jays quickly were ousted in the bottom half of the frame.
I got home around 2 a.m. and felt that the pain of waking up at 6 a.m. to get ready for work was actually worth it. I got to do what so many of Red Sox Nation have been able to do under the lights of Fenway Park: watch Big Papi put the game to bed and be a hero.
It’s been well documented that Ortiz has done that a great deal in Toronto. Andre Khatchaturian of NESN reported that Ortiz “has tormented them over the years and will leave Rogers Centre as one of the most successful visiting players of all-time […] Overall, Ortiz has hit 40 home runs, driven in 105 runs and posted a .264 average in 121 games in Ontario’s capital. Big Papi has also hit five home runs in a single season at the ballpark on four separate occasions (2004, 2005, 2011 and 2014).”
More from Red Sox History
- Two notable Red Sox anniversaries highlight current organizational failures
- Contemporary Era Committee doesn’t elect any former Red Sox to Hall of Fame
- Johnny Damon calls Red Sox out, reveals hilarious way he skirted Yankees’ grooming policy
- Remembering the best Red Sox Thanksgiving ever
- Red Sox World Series legends headline 2023 Hall of Fame ballot
What hasn’t been documented as much is the love that Ortiz gets from Toronto. Being from the Dominican Republic, Ortiz has a huge fanbase in Ontario, as many of its citizens are native of the same country. They see Ortiz as their hero, when they’re not cheering for fellow DominicansJose Bautista
The boos that Ortiz gets is much the same as the ones that I get every time I walk into the Rogers Centre while wearing my pride on my sleeve literally and figuratively. He just gets more of it than I do, of course. Canadians love to boo Big Papi, because it’s all in good fun. They don’t want to see him be a hero every time he comes to Toronto, but there’s no malice in their mischief.
Ortiz must feel the same way. In a recent interview with Sportsnet‘s Hazel Mae, Ortiz gave the fans in Toronto a great deal of love, saying how he thinks that the way they cheered for the Blue Jays during the 2015 regular season and the playoffs was a great thing for the game. He loved their passion for their team.
Today may be the last time that Ortiz ever plays in the Rogers Centre. Will that magic surface again before he leaves? The Red Sox are only a game ahead of the Blue Jays in the American League East division race, making every moment special in the rivalry. Ortiz will want to show that determination once more, especially as he’s hit .500 against Blue Jays starter Aaron Sanchez. Or maybe, just maybe, if the Blue Jays and Red Sox see each other again in the postseason, Ortiz will be saving some of his heroics for the most dramatic stage of them all.