In final All-Star Game, Papi has fond farewell

AL teammates, NL opponents praise popular Red Sox slugger, who says 'I know this is my last one'

July 12th, 2016

SAN DIEGO -- The scenario was laid out to David Ortiz on Tuesday night, in a congested conference room at Petco Park, moments after the iconic slugger had exited his 10th and, supposedly, final All-Star Game: It's the middle of the 2017 season. You're sipping beers at a beach in Santo Domingo. The Red Sox call. They want you back. They're offering $25 million. What do you do?

Ortiz leaned back, looked around, smiled that smile.

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"Man," he howled, "ain't that some B.S."

The question came in Spanish, and Ortiz was so amused that he translated it to English so that everybody was aware. He talked about how proud he was with his career, how difficult it has become to prepare his body for games, how at peace he was with his decision to retire, and how "my mentality will not change."

"Besides," Ortiz said in Spanish, "if you're drinking beers at the beach in Santo Domingo, are you really thinking about baseball?"

The day will soon come when baseball will no longer be at the forefront of Ortiz's mind, but Tuesday wasn't it.

He thought about it in the moments leading up to the All-Star Game presented by MasterCard, while addressing his American League teammates with a near-four-minute speech before their 4-2 victory over the National League. He thought about it when he smoked a groundout against his countryman, Giants starter Johnny Cueto, in his first at-bat. He thought about it when he realized Marlins ace Jose Fernandez was not going to groove three fastballs in his second at-bat, even though he promised.

And he especially thought about it the bottom of the third, when he came out of the game, saluted a sold-out crowd of 42,386 fans and greeted the AL players and coaches who spilled out of the dugout to greet him.

"A marvelous last couple of days," Ortiz said after it was finished. "I know this is my last one."

Xander Bogaerts doubled, Jackie Bradley Jr. smacked two singles and Mookie Betts went 1-for-2, Steven Wright didn't pitch and Craig Kimbrel is on the disabled list. The Red Sox had six representatives at the All-Star Game, but Ortiz was the focus throughout the event.

Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant called Ortiz his hero, Angels center fielder Mike Trout went out of his way to thank him, and Fernandez told Ortiz that his jersey would be the only one displayed prominently at his house.

"An honor," Fernandez said, "just to see a superstar like that, who has given so much to this game, who has helped so many people. To see him in his last All-Star Game, it was a humbling experience, seeing how time really flies."

Ortiz's day began with a speech.

He stood in the middle of the home clubhouse wearing a gray All-Star Game T-shirt and called this "an unbelievable ride." He urged his AL teammates to "bring something to the table for your ballclub" on a daily basis, no matter how their bodies feel, and told them to set an example when they return to their teams for the second half, because, as Ortiz said, "Everybody now in your ballclub is going to be searching, looking for you guys, like, 'That's the guy that we need to follow up, so we can be in that room next year.'"

And then he said: "Let's whoop some [butt]. Because playing at home, there's nothing like playing at home [in the World Series]."

"It's just the person that he is," Bogaerts said. "He motivates us every day and he always sends such a positive message to everyone."

Ortiz approached the batter's box to a standing ovation with two outs in the bottom of the first. Cueto mixed his pitches up, then threw a couple of fastballs and could hear his dugout urging him to keep throwing them straight. The at-bat lasted eight pitches and resulted in a groundout to first base, on a ball that left Ortiz's bat at 96 mph.

"He's Big Papi," Cueto said, "and he's going to retire this year, and he's going to go through the big door with his head up."

Ortiz later lamented his second and final at-bat, particularly the man who pitched to him.

"I was supposed to hit a home run," he said. "My boy [Fernandez] told me that he was going to throw me nothing but fastballs, and the first pitch was a changeup. We have to discuss that later."

Fernandez basically told Ortiz he was going to groove batting-practice fastballs down the middle if they ever faced off, but it didn't necessarily turn out that way.

Fernandez started with an 80-mph pitch off the plate, which he claimed to be a fastball, then came back with three straight 95-mph heaters, one of which Ortiz barely fouled off. Then came a 90-mph pitch that missed away, a 96-mph fastball that was fouled off, and, with the count full, a sweeping curveball that brushed Ortiz back and prompted a walk.

Ortiz smiled, playfully pointed at Fernandez and shared a laugh with Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who was 8 years old when Ortiz made his Major League debut in 1997. A pinch-runner, Edwin Encarnacion, was called upon, and Ortiz walked off.

The second half of the final season of his historic career awaits.

It will begin with his slash line at .332/.426/.682, his home-run total at 22, and his Red Sox at 49-38.

"He's not retiring," Trout claimed, once again. "I don't think so. It's pretty special what he's doing. I talk to him all the time, tell him that he's not going to retire. But it's how his body's holding up. He's 40 years old; he might have some bad feet. But you have to give it to him -- 40 years old, going out there every day playing, putting up good numbers."