The Littlest Red Sox Star
Thursday, February 24, 2011 – Ft. Myers
My second day of Red Sox workouts again began early in the morning. We were in good position to watch as the players took the field, and I successfully called both Bobby Jenks and Lars Anderson over to sign. One thing I was happy to see was that Big Papi was joined by his 6-year-old son, D’Angelo. I’ve seen D’Angelo hanging out with his father’s teammates during batting practice at Fenway before, and my parents had told me how he had posed for pictures with fans and signed autographs (he writes “D34”) at some of the earlier workouts before I flew down.
As usual, after they stretched out, the players split up to the different fields to work on defensive drills. I headed over to where the infielders were taking ground balls. But everywhere I went throughout the day, D’Angelo was the star. He was dressed in full uniform (road grays today) and followed his father around from drill to drill, joining in whenever possible. He stretched with them on Field 2, doing all the different exercises, and then went over to Field 3 where the players were practicing running the bases as if scoring from first base. The following video shows the players as they each cross the plate, and then cheer on a grinning D’Angelo as he makes it all the way around.
When Big Papi and the rest of the hitters in his batting group got settled on Field 5 for some live B.P., D’Angelo sat nearby to watch. It’s so cute the way he carries himself – he walks like his father, talks like his father, and thinks nothing of standing and chatting with fans. Everywhere he went, he was the star of the show. And just like his father, everyone is drawn to him. The fans all flock to him, and the other players jump right in and include him in whatever they’re doing.
I was standing at Field 5 near the small dugout late in the morning, when I started wondering if maybe I should head back up to the front of the complex in case any of the minor leaguers were coming off the field and might be signing. Most autographs that I get come from being in the right place at the right time, and I didn’t want to miss out. But I decided to stay a little longer and watch the rest of the B.P. session. That’s when a woman with two small girls in Ortiz jerseys called D’Angelo over. She started to talk to him in Spanish, but he said he only speaks a little Spanish. She asked where in the Dominican Republic he was from, and told him her family was from Santo Domingo, the capital. D’Angelo said he lived for a while “in the capital in a big apartment,” and then later they lived in a village, but, after pausing thoughtfully, he said he couldn’t really remember all the places he’s lived. The woman asked if she could take a picture of him with her kids, and then said, “You should get your Dad to come over here for a picture too.” D’Angelo ran off to tell Papi this, but he was in between rounds of B.P. and I figured there’s no way he’d come over in the middle. But when D’Angelo returned a minute later he said, “My Dad will come over in a little bit, but it won’t be very long.” When the woman asked if he had told them they were from the Dominican he said no, but then ran back onto the field to deliver the additional tidbit.
All of a sudden, in between turns in the cage, Big Papi himself strolled over to the end of the dugout with a big grin on his face. “So,” he asked his son, “Where are these new friends of yours from the Dominican?” He came over and posed for pictures with the woman and kids, and then signed a couple of balls for the others who were standing in the area. The spot I was standing in was right next to them, and I just happened to have brought a picture of me with the 2004 and 2007 World Series trophies, which I take out of its frame every year and bring to Spring Training with the hopes of getting autographs from members of the ’07 team. I still didn’t think he was going to sign anything other than the balls that the Dominican family had, but he saw my picture, reached for it, and signed. I even got to tell him how the trophy picture had been taken at a food drive he had sponsored at a Stop ‘n Shop in Plainville, MA, to benefit victims of flooding in the Dominican a couple of years ago. He probably only signed about a dozen things total, and then returned to take his turn at B.P. Being able to talk to one of my all-time favorite players has made my entire trip to Florida complete, and it’s only my second day!
By the time I did get back up to the front of the complex, the other players had all come in, so if anyone else had been signing I missed them. But I didn’t care – I had definitely been in the right place at the right time!