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Farewell bash: Ortiz hits final Grapefruit HR

Memorable blast his first of spring, comes in front of thrilled fans at first spring home
Special to MLB.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The roar for David Ortiz cut through the humid afternoon air like a blade through warm butter, gaining strength as a favorite son rounded the bases at a familiar site for the final time.

Ortiz's solo home run to right field off Twins right-hander Kyle Gibson in the fifth inning of the Red Sox's 7-4 loss Thursday at Hammond Stadium served as a fitting southwest Florida farewell. There Ortiz was, a star in his twilight during his last Grapefruit League game in his 20th spring in Lee County, producing a memory for those who had watched him grow from an unknown prospect to a revered franchise face. He savored the moment.

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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The roar for David Ortiz cut through the humid afternoon air like a blade through warm butter, gaining strength as a favorite son rounded the bases at a familiar site for the final time.

Ortiz's solo home run to right field off Twins right-hander Kyle Gibson in the fifth inning of the Red Sox's 7-4 loss Thursday at Hammond Stadium served as a fitting southwest Florida farewell. There Ortiz was, a star in his twilight during his last Grapefruit League game in his 20th spring in Lee County, producing a memory for those who had watched him grow from an unknown prospect to a revered franchise face. He savored the moment.

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"These are Fort Myers fans that support the Twins, support the Red Sox and [me]," Ortiz said. "I've been here for a while. I bet you a lot of these people watched me playing when I played for the [Class A Advanced Fort Myers] Miracle down here. I'm pretty sure they're super happy with how my career has gone."

They have many reasons to be pleased. Ortiz, 40, has a shared history with Boston and Minnesota. He played 342 career Grapefruit League games in Fort Myers throughout his Major League career, first with the Twins from 1997-2002 and then with the Red Sox since 2003. Hammond Stadium was his first spring home, before City of Palms Park (2003-11) and JetBlue Park (since 2012) hosted his maturation into a prized piece of Boston's history.

Tweet from @RedSox: #BigPapi is there to greet everyone at the top of the steps! ��Scoreless after 2. #SoxSpring pic.twitter.com/GwskKiYUjM

Ortiz's farewell started early Thursday. He received a long standing ovation before his at-bat in the first and doffed his helmet toward the crowd. He went 1-for-3, with a strikeout and a groundout in addition to his home run, before Cole Sturgeon replaced him as the Red Sox's designated hitter.

"I think it matters a lot to David," Red Sox manager John Farrell said of the home run, "because he didn't like the way the previous at-bat went, asked for another. And to see him have that kind of intensity tuned up a little bit against one of their starters, good to see him square the ball up."

Standing in a corridor Thursday afternoon, not long after he jolted the crowd into excitement, Ortiz was pleased with his final act at Hammond Stadium. There will be more goodbyes to come, but this one held meaning because of where his journey began.

"You see a kid start, and 20 years later you see his career and being the way it has been, and then you get to see his last Spring Training game," Ortiz said, "it's something that makes it special."

Andrew Astleford is a contributor to MLB.com.

Boston Red Sox, David Ortiz