A Very Papi Birthday
November 18, 2009
It’s been over a month since the last Red Sox game, and baseball withdrawal is really starting to set in for me. So when a couple of my co-workers wanted to go out for dinner and my boss suggested Big Papi’s Grille in Framingham, I of course piped in with, “We should go on Wednesday. That’s Papi’s birthday.” Not that I thought he would show up or anything (if you’re a famous athlete with a house in the tropical Dominican Republic, why would you want to spend your winter in Framingham, Mass.?) but eating a good burger at my favorite player’s restaurant on his birthday seemed like it would help me get my fix.
We sat down at a booth and ordered, when my boss noticed a “Reserved” sign on the table diagonally across from us. “Maybe that’s for Papi,” he said. “Yeah, right,” I answered. But next thing we knew, in walked the birthday boy himself, with his wife and kids. They walked right past our booth to sit in the reserved one. People in the adjacent tables greeted him with “Hi, Big Papi” and the like as he walked past, so I made sure to say “Happy birthday.” I had the perfect seat to watch them as they ate, while making it look like I was chatting with the co-workers. (I tried to sneak a couple of pictures discreetly with my cellphone, but given the dim lighting of the restaurant and the low resolution of the phone, it looks like your standard shot of a UFO or a Bigfoot sighting.) That’s when I remembered I just happened to have an “ORTIZ 34″ baseball cap in my car (for formal occasions, of course) and I carry a Sharpie in my purse at all times, “just in case”. I certainly wouldn’t bother them by approaching the table while they were eating, but the hat was soon fetched from the car in case the moment did arise later.
When the Papi family finished eating, the waitstaff brought out a cake – not just a slice, but a whole huge cake – and sang “Happy Birthday to You.” His wife and kids each had a slice (Papi passed on dessert; after all, he’s in training) and then they got the cake wrapped up in a box to take home. When they stood up to leave, they had to pass my table again. I normally go silent in the presence of players, but my quick-thinking boss reached out and shook Papi’s hand and asked him to sign my hat, even telling him how to spell my name. I finally found words and managed to say, “Thank you so much! And not just for this, but for 2004 and 2007 and everything.” He flashed one of his patented grins before going on his merry way.
I spent the rest of the evening grinning ear-to-ear. I definitely got my Red Sox fix, which should get me through until the first wave of ticket sales in December.