Whether or not you are a fan of major league baseball, whether or not you like sports stars, you have to admit that number 34 is a class act! David Ortiz, or Big Papi, is El Hombre Grande; and whether you say it in English or Spanish, it is just a natural fact that ball players like him do not come down the pike every day.
What can I possibly say about this guy that hasn’t been said already? Well, here’s my opinion about him. He’s a hell of human being and a role model for the ages to come. I think it is funny that when he was playing for the Twins, they weren’t really impressed with him. Perhaps he just was another ball player back then, but when he came to Boston in 2003, he grew into a legend. Not a fragile glass-like legend that often shatters easily, but an honest to God, full blown, real life legend. It didn’t happen overnight, nor was it the result of favorable sports writers (in Boston, as if…) in his corner building an illusion of fame. It happened because he worked hard for it! He learned his trade, ;learning from his own mistakes and errors along the way; then he shared those life lessons with friend and foe alike.
Big Papi is a prime example of what baseball players are suppose to be all about. It is a team game played by team players! It is old time ‘Townball’ all grown up. It is the hopes and dreams of dirty-faced little kids, playing on sandlots from here to Los Angeles. He didn’t set out to be a superstar; he was one of those kids himself, growing up in the hot sun of the Dominican Republic. When he came to Boston, his focus was on making his new team the very best in baseball, and he wasn’t going to let any talk of some silly “Curse of the Bambino” stop his dream from coming true.
For more than eighty years, the Red Sox tried and tried, and several times they came close to winning a World Series. I remember seeing Yaz and George Scott playing the field back in 1967 when we all believed the Impossible Dream could true. I once ate a baseball cap in 1986, and no amount of hot sauce made it taste any less bitter. I was starting to believe that maybe the ‘curse’ might have some merit to it after all; but then in 2004, they did it. And now the Sox have the multiple World Series rings to prove that they are once again a world class team. Big Papi is the reason for a lot of that success. He gave his time to work with all baseball players, not just the Red Sox, but even guys he played against. He took time for the fans and non-fans alike. Whether it was kids at the park or kids in hospitals, he gave people the most important gift he could: he gave his heart and warmth as a human being.
A family man and a leader in his community, David Ortiz inspired people on and off the field; and it just might be a while before we are lucky enough to see the likes of him again. To me, Big Papi brings to the mind the words of the 35th President of these United States who said “Ask not what your country can do for you; Ask what you can do for your country!” (President John Fitzgerald Kennedy 20 January 1961). David Ortiz came to America from the Dominican Republic with the dream of becoming a big league ball player and a bigger dream of being an American; he has by his example done the nation of his birth and his adopted nation very proud indeed. As a kid growing up here in the seat of American history, I was always told by my elders and mentors that you can be anything you want as long as you were willing to apply yourself and work to gain those goals. Pretty much I found this to be true in my own life. But David Ortiz demonstrates that the American dream is still very much alive; and any person of character can do great things if they give it their all.
David Ortiz told his team members that “you won’t be in a world series everyday, but you have to fight every day as if you are!” Somebody once said that God doesn’t love quitters, but it seems everybody loves a winner and David Ortiz is a winner! Nobody wins everyday, but if you give it your all and try your damnedest when you’re up at bat, some days you can get up and under that baseball, and send it out over the Pike. You don’t win everyday, but you always try… and that’s the important thing that separates the winners from the losers in this world. You give your all and that’s the real gift David Ortiz has given to you and me. He smiles as he crosses the plate, giving the high sign to his sweet Mother in Heaven, reminding all of us that hope still lives and dreams can come true! So as the Red Sox battle in the playoffs, all sorts of honors are being heaped upon him– from having a bridge and a drive named for him, to having his number retired. He deserves this praise and more because Big Papi is the real deal! Some day, when you’re old and gray, many memories may fade; but you will be able to place your grandchildren up onto your knee and recount how you once saw the best damn baseball player of the 21st century, a man much bigger than any legend could ever hope to be!