I don’t remember the exact moment when David Ortiz became my favorite baseball player. In fact, I don’t think there was an exact moment.
One of the best things about sports is how it acts as a time stamp on your life. Memories from your favorite teams and players act as bookmarks. These bookmarks then open to full length pages of more memories of what your life was like at that time and where you watched certain events happen.
Back in 2004, I was pudgy little fifth grader watching the Red Sox make an improbable run to win their first World Series title in 86 years. David Ortiz was the centerpiece of that ’04 Red Sox team and it was hard not to love Big Papi at that point.
More so, I related to Ortiz as I clocked in at about 12 minutes and 45 seconds for my mile run in gym class back then. He was living proof you could suck at running and still be successful and I gravitated toward that. Playing first base on my little league team, being a lefty hitter, and being slow as molasses all added up to making David Ortiz my favorite baseball player for years to come. I put up pictures in my room and bought an Ortiz player tee that I still wear to this day.
My first memory of seeing Ortiz play came that year in the American League Division Series against the Anaheim Angels. Sitting in the left field grandstands with my father (who had surprised me with tickets to the game a day before), we watched as Ortiz started his streak of walk-off hits with a game-ending, series-ending home run in the 10th inning of Game 3.
That home run was only the start as Ortiz had two more game-winning hits in the ALCS against the Yankees en-route to the 3-0 comeback over New York and eventual World Series victory over St.Louis. As General Manager Theo Epstein noted that year: “At some point that October he (Ortiz) became Big Papi.”
So many players have come and gone since that point, but Ortiz has been the rock. Guys like David Wells, Josh Beckett, Adrian Beltre, Victor Martinez, Jonathan Papelbon, Julio Lugo, Diasuke Matsuzaka, Carl Crawford, and the list goes on and on and on. He played under three managers in Terry Francona, Bobby Valentine (ugh), and now John Farrell. Ortiz will be the last player to retire from the 2004 Red Sox.
Fast forward to 2013, and I’m sitting in my freshman year dorm room at Boston University as I watch Ortiz take the microphone at Fenway Park on April 20th, five days after the Boston Marathon Bombings.
The Red Sox were once again a team of destiny that year. A summer punctuated by walk-off wins and late-inning heroics turned into a fall the postseason run. And at the head of it all was 37-year-old David Ortiz. Down 1-0 in the series and 5-2 in Game 2 against the Tigers, Big Papi stepped to the plate and gave Red Sox fans yet another memory, yet another bookmark.
Ortiz’s heroics in the World Series that year were even greater (no one likes to point to the fact that Ortiz had a cringeworthy batting average of only .090 in that ALCS). In the 2013 World Series against the Cardinals, Ortiz had an astonishing stat line of .688/.760/1.188 with two home runs, six RBIs and one important dugout speech.
On October 30th, 2013 the Red sox wrapped up their first World Series at Fenway Park in 95 years and Ortiz was named World Series MVP.
Now in 2016, I’ve graduated from BU and moved onto my first job at WEEI and the Red Sox have once again won the AL East. They are on their way to the playoffs as they try to win a last championship before Ortiz calls it a career.
Hopefully there is one last memorable bookmark.