By Richard Cuicchi | September 09, 2016 at 01:06 PM EDT | No Comments
David Ortiz is winding his 20-year career in spectacular fashion for the Boston Red Sox, as he helps them contend for the American League East Division title. Prior to the season he had announced the 2016 campaign would be his last hurrah. Baseball’s going to sorely miss Big Papi, as he’s affectionately been called since 2004 when the Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years. He’s been a force on and off the diamond while representing the Red Sox.
Reflecting back on his highly productive and popular career, there have been several aspects of Ortiz’s game that his teammates and his admiring fans have come to rely on. His absence next year will create a huge void that won’t be easily filled. Here are five things that will likely be missed about Ortiz.
1 -- Ortiz plays the game with a child-like exuberance. Bringing joy to the game has been one of his missions in life. His ever-present, glowing smile has become infectious over the years. He could often be seen before games bantering with kids in the stands, as well as clowning with his teammates. In a sport that has become dominated by the business of baseball, Ortiz always looked like he was having fun on the field. He seemed to be a little-leaguer in a big-league uniform. Only Ortiz could get away with taking a selfie with President Obama during the Red Sox’s visit to the White House.
2 – Ortiz became the face of the Red Sox through his performances on the field and his irresistible personality. He made it a priority to be accessible to fans and the media. He immersed himself into the Boston community, and when his now famous expletive-ridden phrase became part of the rallying cry of the city following the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, he was seen as one of the leaders of the Boston Strong movement for the recovery of the city. His popularity as one of the all-time great Red Sox players is probably exceeded only by the legendary Ted Williams. That would put him ahead of such Red Sox heroes as Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice, and Pedro Martinez.
3 – On the field, Ortiz is best known for his clutch-hitting heroics, including numerous walk-off hits in critical games. He seemed to have a knack for rising to the occasion at the right time. The best illustration of this was his performance in the 2004 post-season. He hit a game-ending homer in the 10th inning to complete a first-round sweep of the Anaheim Angels. In the ALCS against the New York Yankees, Ortiz hit a home run in the 12th inning to win Game 4, and then he singled in the 14th inning to win Game 5. There were many more occasions like this, when he saved the Red Sox from the jaws of defeat.
4 – Sometimes overlooked is Ortiz’s mentorship of Latino players. He was always the first to welcome new Latino players to the Red Sox, especially those from the Dominican Republic, his home country. He often took them under his wing to help them get acclimated to the big-league environment. His influence extended beyond the Red Sox team, as Latino opponents even sought him out for advice on baseball matters and life in general.
5 –Through both his play and off-field conduct, Ortiz has proven that he is a leader of this team. He has an innate ability to connect with his teammates. He’s the one who calls the team meetings when things are going rough. He’s the guy that keeps them loose and helps them navigate through the difficulties of a long season. His deep passion for the game has a way of rubbing off on his teammates. Some people will argue that Ortiz’s teammate, Dustin Pedroia, is the Red Sox’s team leader because of his gritty-style of play. But there’s no mistaking Ortiz is the “go-to” guy inside the clubhouse.
Ortiz’s career accomplishments are the makings of a future Hall of Fame player. He’s been on three World Series championship teams. His 534 home runs are 18th on the all-time list, while he’s 22nd on the list with 1,748 RBI. Those are Ted Williams-like numbers. Ortiz has been the most impactful designated hitter of all time. Perhaps the only knock against him is that he didn’t play a lot of games as a position player.
He’s played so well this year (with 30+ home runs and 100+ RBI), that he’s being questioned about whether he should stick around for another season. Ortiz insists he’s not changing his mind. Especially if he could manage to get the Red Sox to a World Series again. That would be the icing on the cake for his career.
Ortiz ranks as one of the most influential players in the sport. The beloved figure, with his unique Big Papi character, will be sadly missed by all fans, not just the Red Sox Nation. Probably the only people who won’t miss him will be his New York Yankee opponents.