Rob Maaddi, FISM News
David Ortiz walked onto the stage to chants of “Papi! Papi! Papi!” from Boston Red Sox fans who filled the crowd at Sunday’s Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Cooperstown, New York.
One fan waved the Dominican Republic flag and two women held a sign that read: “Papi for President.” They had come to see one of their all-time favorites earn baseball’s greatest honor.
As always, Ortiz didn’t disappoint.
The slugger, known for his clutch hitting and dynamic personality, delivered a powerful speech in both English and Spanish. Ortiz, who helped the Red Sox win three World Series during 14 seasons with the team, opened by thanking God.
“I want to thank God for giving me the opportunity to be here today and for giving me the joy of traveling this path, this path that allowed me to be here today and hopefully inspire everyone to believe in yourself,” Ortiz said. “Thank you, dear God, for giving me the opportunity and strength all these years to stay strong and keep my feet on the ground through all the ups and downs and all the sacrifices that I had to overcome to be able to be here with you today.”
Typically known for his flashy attire, the 46-year-old Ortiz looked like he was taking care of business, wearing a navy jacket with red tie and sporting designer sunglasses.
“I always tried to live my life in a way … so I can make a positive influence in the world,” Ortiz said. “And if my story can remind you of anything, let it remind you that when you believe in someone you can change the world, you can change their future, just like so many people believed in me.”
Ortiz gave credit to Dave Jauss, a winter league coach in the Dominican Republic, who later reunited with Ortiz in Boston as an advance scout from 2003-05.
“He always used to tell us, ‘You have to go hard, can’t take things for granted,'” Ortiz said. “He was hard on me, but I know he was coming from a good place. On the last day of the season, he told me, ‘The reason why I was so hard on you is because of all the players here, I think you are the one that can have an amazing career in the big leagues. Go and get it, big boy.'”
Ortiz was one of seven players inducted on Sunday along with Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva, Bud Fowler, and Negro League pioneer Buck O’Neil. Fowler, Hodges, Minoso, and O’Neil were posthumously inducted.
Many in the estimated crowd of 35,000 came to see Ortiz, who survived a nightclub shooting in the Dominican Republic just three years ago.
Ortiz was the 58th player elected on the first ballot and the first designated hitter to gain the honor.
He spent his first six seasons with the Minnesota Twins but flourished after he joined Boston in 2003. He batted .286 over his career with 2,472 hits, 541 homers, and 1,768 RBIs.
“That organization made me the man that I am today. They educate me about the game, but they also educate me about my life. Community service, connecting with people, the Jimmy Fund, the Children’s Fund. That’s why I started the David Ortiz Children’s Fund that helps provide life-saving heart surgery,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz helped the Red Sox overcome a 3-0 series deficit against the New York Yankees in the 2004 American League championship series, earning MVP honors. He then played a major role in the team’s subsequent World Series victory against St. Louis that ended Boston’s 86-year championship drought and the “Curse of the Bambino.”
Ortiz was also part of two more Red Sox championship teams. He played a major role on the team that defeated Colorado for the 2007 title and earned World Series MVP honors when Boston beat St. Louis in 2013.
“It’s been almost 20 years since my first day in Boston. We have some incredible memories,” Ortiz said. “When I think about Boston, I definitely think about 2004, 2007 and of course 2013, after the city was shaken by the Marathon bombing, I have never seen a community bounce back and reunite like Boston.”