There will never be another David Ortiz, and now there will never be another No. 34 in the history of Boston Red Sox baseball.
On Friday night, the Red Sox made that official by retiring Ortiz’s jersey in an emotional on-field ceremony that reminded fans why they immediately fell in love with “Big Papi” back in 2003.
A teary-eyed Ortiz only removed his sunglasses when it was time to address the crowd. For a player who has always played the game with his emotions on his sleeves, this was still a side we haven’t seen often. He was clearly overcome by the reception, the acknowledgement and ultimately the finality that such a moment provides.
Ortiz was joined by his family, many of his former teammates, and the children of Kirby Puckett, whom Ortiz aimed to honor by wearing the No. 34. Puckett had served as a mentor to Ortiz during his early days with the Minnesota Twins, and that guidance was never forgotten. This was Ortiz’s small way of repaying the legendary Hall of Famer and honoring his memory.
Ortiz thanks the fans for their unwavering support over the years. He also thanked Pedro Martinez for helping to open the door that brought him to Boston and changed his life.
Over Ortiz’s 14 seasons in Boston, the native of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic quickly won the hearts of his “second home” with a larger-than-life personality that was matched only by his passion for baseball.
Of course, to survive in Boston, Ortiz also had to be pretty good at his job. He proved to be one of the best ever, establishing Hall of Fame credentials that include 10 All-Star Game appearances, nine postseason appearances and, most important to Boston, three World Series rings.
Friday provided a moment to reflect on those accomplishments and to reflect on a relationship between player and organization, and also between man and community, that’s never stopped growing.
Ortiz came to Boston a 27-year-old man needing the Red Sox as much as they needed him. He’d just been released by the Twins after six underwhelming seasons, and this was his best and perhaps last opportunity to prove he belonged in the big leagues. He embraced that opportunity, and in turn was embraced by one of the game’s most loyal fanbases.
Ortiz not only became the face of the Red Sox franchise, he became a community cornerstone. One the city turned to for inspiration during its darkest hours following the Boston Marathon bomb. Ortiz was a source of strength, delivering a heartfelt and defiant message that galvanized the city and defined the Boston Strong movement.
That moment, more so than any other in his career, cemented Ortiz’s legacy as a Boston icon. That’s why Ortiz’s honors extended well beyond simply having his number retired. The city of Boston announced on Thursday that a street near Fenway Park would be renamed David Ortiz Drive. Prior to that, Gate 34 at Logan Airport was renamed in Ortiz’s honor.
That speaks to the impact Ortiz made, the deep respect he’s earned and an emotional connection equaled by few other athletes and the city that became home.
More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:
– – – – – – –