A Final Goodbye to David Ortiz
Everyone has heroes as a child -- some are scientists, politicians, firefighters, but mine was David Ortiz. As Ortiz embarks on his final postseason, I can’t help but reminisce on the countless memories that filled my childhood. These memories have helped me become the person I am today, which, believe it or not, comes without extreme hyperbole. From lifting the trophy after that miserable, generation-after-generation drought of 86 years, to city-lifting speeches when we had no one else to turn to, the inspiration that Ortiz has provided to this city has been invaluable over the past fourteen years.
Big Papi has been the face of the Red Sox, and the city of Boston, for as long as I can remember. I was just nine years-old when Boston picked up Ortiz, and although I was in love with the sport of baseball at that point, the Red Sox were not a huge part of my life. That all changed in 2003, of course. The heartbreak in Game 7 of the ALCS will never quite leave me -- or you either -- but, at that moment (I still hate you, Aaron Boone), was when I realized how important this team was to me. I cried for days, I didn't go to school, I was a mess and inconsolable.
But, then, 2004. As a ten year-old, there was nothing cooler than watching your team win a World Series, especially in the manner in which that team did it. To watch it with my father, who has gone almost half his life seeing horrors much worse than 2003, is a memory I'll carry with me forever. I knew I was watching history, but the magnitude of what I had witnessed was certainly not understood. Even back then, I knew it was all thanks to Ortiz. Ortiz the hero; the goat; the greatest; the voice and thunderous bat for an entire city, striking back against their arch rivals en route to a franchise-defining victory.
Over my adolescent and teenage years, the Red Sox became my foundation and that was all because of the way that Ortiz, and the rest of the team, played. Ortiz helped me learn how to win graciously, lose respectfully, but, most importantly, he showed me how to do things for the right reasons. With Ortiz retiring, it feels like my childhood is coming to a close and that is a hard idea to come to terms with.
Sitting here as a college senior, I still have that giddy feeling every time Ortiz comes to bat. It’s the same feeling that I got when the team won in 2004. Then again in 2007. Then again in 2013. In some ways, Ortiz has spoiled me and the rest of the younger side of Red Sox Nation. Three championships in a decade, now aiming for his fourth in what would be an epic send-off to a Hall of Fame worthy career?
For all the legends that came through Fenway Park -- Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice, Jimmie Foxx, the list could go on forever -- only Pedro Martinez has a ring, but Big Papi's got them all trumped. Ortiz has kept the childhood spirit alive in me for so long now, a daunting realization to think about losing. But as one legend retires, others step up -- I see Ortiz in Mookie Betts' passion, Hanley Ramirez's big swing, and Jackie Bradley Jr.'s never-say-die attitude. I know that they will continue on in Big Papi's footsteps and that experience is irreplaceable. Ortiz will forever be a part of Boston, but it will certainly be tough not seeing the raw emotion and joy playing each and every game.
At this point his long and historic career, many do not know that Ortiz almost fell out of the league before the Red Sox picked him up in 2003. As a favor to Martinez, another hero from the Dominican Republic, the Sox signed him out of good faith and the rest is history. Knowing how close the Red Sox were to missing out on a once-in-a-lifetime talent, one that would break the curse and then help pick us back up after the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, is heart-wrenching. Would the city still be ringless? More importantly, who would've been our voice when we couldn't speak? A simple thank you is not enough for a player that has given this team, this sport, and this city everything he had over the past fourteen years. Ortiz has inspired and brought joy to everybody, even those that weren't fans of the hometown team.
There is no one that better personifies the passion, hard work, and perseverance that lives in the heart of every Bostonian. Although Ortiz won’t be on the field, I can say for certain that he will never be out of our hearts. Ortiz changed this city forever and I can only hope that it was as fun for him as it was for us.
Thanks, Big Papi, for everything.