It takes so little to make a fan for life. It’s a statement I make a few times a year. Sometimes it is said as a compliment; other times it is a criticism. When David Ortiz recently announced that he is retiring after the 2016 baseball season, that statement was not the first thing that came to my mind. After all, David Ortiz is all about the big things — not the little things.
We all know the heroic Big Papi — The one who hits bombs seemingly on demand. He is the big bat that Red Sox fans want at the plate in every big moment. His contributions to three World Series championships within ten years were truly amazing. The more recent highlights often run through my mind: His stirring speech after the Boston bombings when he declared Boston to be “our F&$@#*G city”. The grand slam in the ALCS that turned his friend, Torii Hunter, upside-down in the bullpen. His dugout pep talk during game 4 of the 2013 World Series. His joy in lifting Koji Uehara over his shoulder after every Koji save. His 500th majestic career homerun. They are the memories that will make me shake my head into my old age and say, “He was one of a kind”.
In 2014, opposing pitchers David Price and Chris Archer whined that David Ortiz “thinks he’s bigger than the game”. They were insulted by David’s bat flip after a homerun. Get over it. He IS bigger than the game. He is larger than life. He’s a superhero. He beat you fair and square. He’s entitled to flip his bat in celebration just the way a pitcher is entitled to strut around the mound like a rooster or pump their fist after blowing a fastball past a batter. Pull up your big boy pants and move on.
As supporters and fans, there were times we were annoyed with David. For example, the time he interrupted Terry Francona’s press conference to complain about losing an RBI to a scorekeeper, or when he smashed a dugout telephone to smithereens in Baltimore, or for griping to the press about not getting the contract he wanted and complaining about being “disrespected”. Yes, we were annoyed. Did you notice how quickly that annoyance dissipated the next time Big Papi stepped up to the plate and delivered? In the end, he’s just a man like any other. A man who is sensitive to criticism, has his ego bruised easily, is passionate and so full of pride. You know — just an every day superhero.
Aside from his heroics on the field — and there were many — and the wonderful and generous things he has done for people less fortunate, there are little things I will always remember when I think of David Ortiz. It’s the little things I will miss the most. The sudden buzz that comes from the crowd every time he steps out of the dugout — even just for warmups and stretching. The way he turns toward the crowd, smiles and waves when fans call his name (while most other players keep their eyes down and faces hidden under their caps). The way he enters a room and the energy level ramps up to a frenzy. Is he a showman? An actor? Is he selling The Brand? Of course he is. He excels at it. He has a Ph.D. in it. He makes the small moments big and the big moments gigantic.
A few years ago, I had a moment with David Ortiz. The funny thing is that it came out of a complaint that I had about feeling ripped off when I bought a ticket to opening day though the David Ortiz Foundation’s annual auction. I didn’t feel as though it was described correctly. They were not good seats but they were promoted to be. I wrote a letter and heard from David’s friend with the Red Sox productions department, John Carter. Long story short — I was placated by getting a chance to be on the field for batting practice and then got to sit in the dugout. That was cool enough for me. The next thing I knew, David Ortiz made an appearance in the dugout…TO MEET ME!!! He said a few words, asked “Are we alright?”, wrapped that big arm around my shoulder, signed a quilt square for me, and had a few pictures taken for me. Yes, David, we’re alright. In case you haven’t noticed, that kind of thing doesn’t happen to fans at Fenway Park unless you’re associated with a corporate sponsor. It’s a moment I will never forget. David Ortiz, Super Hero, and little ol’ me — just a girl who has loved the Red Sox her whole life.
It takes so little to make a fan for life. That’s me, David.