Saturday, October 1, 2016
I’ve been so caught up in magic numbers and scoreboard watching, all to make sure the Red Sox get a chance to win one more Championship for Big Papi before he retires, that it hasn’t hit me until just now that we only have a few more chances to see him in action. With the Red Sox on the road for so much of the month, it just didn’t seem possible a few weeks ago that I am now down to just one regular season game. The final home game of the year is included in my 10-game season ticket package, so I’ve known all year that I’d be going to his final regular season game (and I get a playoff game in my package too!). But it wasn’t until this weekend that I realized how close the end is, even if the post-season does extend his career a couple extra weeks. So on the day before Big Papi’s final regular season game, I’m going to look back on my personal favorite David Ortiz moments. Follow the links in each entry for all the details.
February 18, 2003
It was my first trip to Spring Training, and our stay was only a couple of days due to a big storm at home and a cancelled flight. I was thrilled to see my favorites, Nomar and Pedro, but we also made sure to get autographs from the new guys – Ramiro Mendoza, Jeremy Giambi, and David Ortiz. I remember being surprised how big Ortiz was as he stood next to me. Knowing he had come from the Twins, I had assumed he was the scrappy speedster type. I remember having him on my fantasy team on 2002 because the scouting report said that he had “some pop in his bat” and the “potential for 20 homers a year if he gets enough playing time.” He’s certainly shown a bit of pop over the next 14 years! (And I’ve been back to Spring Training every year since.)
September 23, 2003
With their magic number at 4 to clinch a playoff spot, the Sox found themselves down 5-2 to the Orioles heading into the bottom of the ninth. It had been a season full of dramatic, come-from-behind wins, but they hadn’t had one in a while. Todd Walker hit a clutch, two-out, three-run homer to tie the game, and then David Ortiz (the nickname “Big Papi” didn’t come about until the following season) launched a game-winning homer to lead off the tenth. It was the first time I witnessed a walk-off home run in person, and was a highlight in a very exciting week.
October 16, 2004
Why would I pick the night of the Red Sox’ humiliating 19-8 loss in Game 3 of the 2004 ALCS as one of my favorite Big Papi moments? Well, it’s the only post-season game I went to that year. I didn’t get to see his three walk-off hits, but going down 0-3 in the series paved the way for their historic comeback. I read that Ortiz stopped on the way in to Fenway the next day and pulled his car over beneath the billboard with a picture of a smiling, double-pointing Manny Ramirez that said simply, “Keep the Faith.” He thought about the fans he had seen crying and feeling sad after the previous night’s game and told his teammates they needed to win it for the fans. I was way out in right field that night, but I was definitely sad. Papi, of course, went on to win Game 4 and Game 5 with dramatic walk-off hits, and the Red Sox completed the comeback two nights later. You’re welcome!
June 2, 2005
This weekday afternoon game was a makeup of a rainout on another weekday afternoon, which meant I had to use up two vacation days just to see it. My brother drove down from Maine and had to circle for an hour before finding an open parking lot. One of our seats had chewing gum stuck to it. And after all that, at the end of the eighth, the Sox found themselves trailing 4-3. But it was all worth it when Big Papi launched a two-out, three-run walk-off homer to send us home happy.
July 31, 2006
I went to another game in 2005 where Big Papi had a walk-off single, and a game earlier in 2006 in which he had hit a walk-off home run, but one I’ll always remember is the game in July of 2006 when I just knew Papi would win it for us, no matter how badly the first part of the game went. A real back-and-forth rollercoaster game left the Red Sox trailing 8-6 heading into the bottom of the ninth, but I was smiling. When the first two batters reached, I cheered as if we had won the game, because the right number of baserunners were in place for Papi’s at-bat. I had spent the first 31 years of my life as a Red Sox fan having my dreams dashed and conditioned to expect the worst, so to reach the point where I could be this confident and happy was a huge accomplishment, and for that I have Papi to thank. And yes, he launched a blast into the center field stands and we chanted “M-V-P” all the way back to the T station.
September 20 – 21, 2006
The Red Sox missed the playoffs in 2006 for the first time in the past four years, so the end of the season became all about Big Papi’s quest to break the Red Sox’ all-time home run record of 50, set by Jimmie Foxx in 1938. I was in the bleachers on September 20, when he hit #50, and I was back the next night when he drilled numbers 51 and 52 to take the lead.
February 27 – 28, 2007
I’ve been going to Spring Training every year since Papi’s first season with the Red Sox, and 2007 was a particularly fruitful one. On the last day of workouts, I happened to be in the right place at the right time to get him to autograph a picture of me with the 2004 trophy. He even commented, “Wow, you got your picture with that.” The next day was my father’s birthday, and the first Spring Training game of the year. Our seats were right on the end of the row in left field. While my mother and I were waiting near the dugout during batting practice, a foul ball bounced in to the seats, right to my father. After a few at-bats, Papi came out of the game and jogged along the warning track. As he approached our seats, we helped call him over, and my father told him it was his birthday and got him to sign the ball.
May 20, 2009
My favorite player started 2009 in an epic slump, and by May 20 he still hadn’t homered. So when he launched one toward the camera stand in straightaway center, right where I was sitting, I helped will it over the wall (along with 35,000 or so of my closest friends). The guy directly in front of me ran into the camera well and wound up with the ball. We gave Big Papi a long ovation, and made him come back out for a curtain call. Then for the rest of the game, people kept climbing past me to take their picture with the ball, which the guy in front of me proudly displayed.
August 26, 2009
It was the perfect night at Fenway – not too hot, not too cold, not raining. Before the game, I got my picture taken with young pitcher Clay Buchholz. In the fifth inning, my name was on the scoreboard as one of the randomly-selected Red Sox Nation members being welcomed. Tim Wakefield pitched seven strong innings and left with a one-run lead. The only thing that went wrong was when the bullpen blew the lead, and the Sox headed into the bottom of the ninth tied. Papi had cooled off from his record-setting seasons a few years ago, but we chanted for him just like old times. And we were rewarded, when he sent one down the right field line that hooked fair for the walk-off homer, his first since 2007.
November 18, 2009
A couple of co-workers wanted to go out to eat after work, and I convinced them to go to Big Papi’s Grille in Framingham (a restaurant that has since closed) because it happened to be Ortiz’s birthday. I assured them I didn’t actually think that he would be there, just that it would help me get my baseball fix after a disappointing end to the season. But right after we ordered, in came the birthday boy and his family, and they sat at a table diagonally across from us. Like every good diehard, I just happened to have an Ortiz hat in my car and a Sharpie in my purse. After dinner, as he left, we shook his hand and I thinked him for 2004 and 2007, and he signed (and personalized!) my hat.
February 24, 2011
The next Ortiz moment on my list is dedicated to D’Angelo, David’s son, who was six in the spring of 2011. At one of the workouts, he was dressed in full uniform and followed his father from field to field, participating in all the different drills. And just like his father, everyone was drawn to him. The fans all flocked to him, and the other players jumped right in and included him in whatever they were doing. Some fans from the Dominican were standing next to me during batting practice, and they started chatting with D’Angelo, eventually convincing him to call his Papi over for a few autographs. He only signed a couple, but one was mine – a picture of me with the 2004 and 2007 trophies on which I’ve been trying to get signatures of everyone on the ‘07 team.
October 24, 2013
Game 2 of the 2013 World Series doesn’t make the list because of the result, but because it was the first World Series game I’ve ever attended. It gave me chills throughout the game whenever I realized that I was really at the World Series, never more so than when post-season artist David Ortiz homered in the sixth inning to give the Red Sox a 2-1 lead. While the lead didn’t hold up in this particular game, Papi went on to hit .688 in the Series and earn the MVP.
May 22, 2016
I’ve been watching Papi do Papi things for 14 years, but what’s most impressive is that he hasn’t slowed down. This year has been one of his most productive, as he’s leading the league in slugging percentage, doubles, RBI, intentional walks, and extra-base hits going into the final game of the season. And one of the games that demonstrated his dominance was on a Sunday afternoon in May. He hit an RBI single in the first, drove in another with a ground-rule double in the second, clubbed the 514th home run of his career in the fifth, and was intentionally walked in the sixth. That meant that when he came to bat in the bottom of the eighth he needed a triple for the cycle. Knowing that the only way he could hit a triple at Fenway Park was if it landed in the “triangle” in the deepest part of center field, he did exactly that. It hit the dirt, bounced off the back wall, and then took an unfortunate bounce, just barely clearing the fence for a ground-rule double, and inches away from staying in the park for a triple. I was bummed that he missed it by inches, but completely in awe of the fact that he had come so close just by deciding that that was where he wanted to hit it.