By: Greg Levinsky
I can’t remember a time when David Ortiz wasn’t on the Red Sox. In fact, I was just four years and 310 days old when “Big Papi” made his Sox debut. David Ortiz has made a greater impact on Boston sports fans of my generation than any other athlete.
For someone who grew up scouring the box scores every day in the Portland Press Herald (Maine), it was a familiar sight to see Big Papi’s name as recording extra-base hits and RBI. More notably, it has been Big Papi’s face everywhere. From Dunkin Donuts commercials with Rob Gronkowski to old “This is ESPN” commercials with Jorge Posada, David Ortiz’s image has been awesomely inescapable.
I have had the same David Ortiz pennant hanging just above my bed in my Portland, Maine room since I started Little League in third grade. Here at BU, a gray Ortiz jersey hangs right above my bed.
Admittedly, I cannot name all of Big Papi’s most famous clutch moments. In the 2013 World Series Ortiz batted .688 and hit two homeruns. Just as memorable were the beards of the 2013 Sox with the likes of Jonny Gomes, Mike Napoli and Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
Of course, early in 2013 the tragic Boston Marathon bombing occurred. Although at the time David Ortiz has only lived in Boston for just over a decade, his words “this is our f***ing city” imbued more hope in the Boston community than words of anyone else. Big Papi’s image is more than baseball, David Ortiz is the mentor, inspiration, and big brother to all of the baseball fans of this generation.
David Ortiz commands the most respect on the field than anyone in the MLB. This isn’t just because of postseason heroics. David Ortiz is just overall a domineering presence in the baseball community. Among other MLB players Big Papi is sought out before every game for a hug and a quick “hello.” For minor leaguers in Spring Training, many of which grew up watching the same classic Big Papi heroics I speak of, snapping a photograph with their childhood hero leaves minor leaguers as star struck as the average fan.
I’m not able to speak of the impact that David Ortiz made on the children of the Dominican Republic and the Latin American world as a whole but I am sure it is just as great if not greater than the impact he has made on Red Sox fans.
Last Friday night I received a spontaneous text from a cousin asking me to go to the Red Sox game with them. I accepted the invitation in a heartbeat and sprinted from Studio East in COM to drop off my bag at a friend’s dorm in Warren Towers. A steady rain was falling but it didn’t deter any fans who wanted to witness one of Big Papi’s final home games. Papi’s third to last home game turned out to be the greatest moment I have witnessed as a Boston sports fan.
After a pre-game ceremony honoring the David Ortiz Children’s Fund and the hundreds of lives they’ve saved in both North America and the Dominican Republic, a rain soaked game began. The Toronto Blue Jays brought in lefty Brett Cecil to face Ortiz with one out and one man on in the bottom of the seventh inning. The Red Sox game was tied at 3, but not for long as Big Papi did what he has done for a dozen years.
On a 2-1 count Papi hooked a line drive down the right field line for his 38th home run of the season, scoring Mookie Betts as well to give the Sox a 5-3 lead. Brad Ziegler, Koji Uehara, and Craig Kimbrel followed with three scoreless innings to seal the Red Sox victory.
On what ended up being the Red Sox 93rd and final victory of the season I was able to witness an even more unbelievable moment.
I witnessed David Ortiz’s final regular season home run on last Friday night September 30, 2016. For a lifelong Boston Sports fan who grew up idolizing David Ortiz like so many other fans this was a special moment. While at the time I didn’t know this was going to be Big Papi’s final time rounding the bases in his illustrious career, I knew it was a special.
Paul Pierce was the first of great Boston athletes during my time to leave, Tom Brady will be the last, but it is inarguable that David Ortiz will leave the greatest impact not just on his respective sport but on the New England community as a whole.
Now 541 home runs later, good for 17th all time David Ortiz will no longer be the face of the Red Sox. Losing Ortiz will have an incalculable impact on the team. Moreover, for 18-year-old fans like myself this will be the first time in our memories without David Ortiz being the face of the Red Sox.
Let’s hope for a long playoff run this October.
As we reflect on all of the happiness David Ortiz has given us over the past 13 years there is only one thing Red Sox fans can say collectively.
Thank you David Ortiz for pouring your heart in the city of Boston and leaving a lasting impact on all of our lives.