Tributes to David Ortiz abound as the Red Sox prepare to retire their beloved slugger's No. 34 on Friday before playing the Angels at Fenway Park. MLB.com is doing its part to count down the top 10 moments of Big Papi's career, and now former teammates are weighing in.On Wednesday,
Tributes to David Ortiz abound as the Red Sox prepare to retire their beloved slugger's No. 34 on Friday before playing the Angels at Fenway Park. MLB.com is doing its part to count down the top 10 moments of Big Papi's career, and now former teammates are weighing in.
On Wednesday, that teammate was a special one, Hall of Fame starter and MLB Network analyst Pedro Martinez. In a heartfelt essay on The Players' Tribune, Martinez paid homage to the player who helped bring three World Series championships to Boston.
And he reminded us all who brought Ortiz there in the first place.
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In the piece, Martinez recounts the memory of running into Ortiz in a seafood restaurant in the Dominican Republic after the 2002 season. Martinez approached his friend as Ortiz received the call that he'd been released by the Minnesota Twins.
"You know what I did?" Martinez wrote. "I jumped in the air and clapped. We needed a first baseman in Boston, and I knew that could be David.
"David looked at me, and I think it was the only time in my life I've ever seen him serious.
"He said, 'How can that be great? My little girl was born two weeks ago, and I don't have one cent in the bank. How can that be great, bro?'
"'Because now I can take you with me to the Red Sox.'"
Martinez called several Boston executives right then and there, urging them to sign Ortiz, who'd hit 58 homers over parts of six inconsistent seasons with the Twins.
Once in Boston, Ortiz became one of the most feared sluggers in franchise history, the most productive designated hitter of all-time.
"The rest is history," Martinez wrote.
That's not just an expression in this case, because Martinez and Oritz were integral in making history in 2004, when they led the Red Sox to their first title in 86 years. Ortiz won ALCS MVP honors that year, when Boston famously became the only team to come back from a 3-0 postseason deficit, then again in the World Series in 2013. More than anything, Ortiz's legacy is defined by his postseason prowess.
"There's a little story behind every single hit you saw David get in that miraculous comeback against the Yankees in '04," Martinez wrote. "We hunted those hits."
"David would study his at-bats and obsess over them. It's still the same to this day. He has never let up for one minute in his pursuit of learning. That's what makes him so impressive, and that's the thing that a lot of people in baseball don't understand. They see the power, but they don't see all the work that goes into the power."
Martinez saw all the work, all the blood, all the sweat and all the tears, the first of which came on that fateful night at the seafood restaurant in 2002.
"Put yourself in his shoes, sitting in the restaurant," Martinez wrote. "What I want people to understand is just how low of a place David had to climb out of to get to where he is today.
"There is a lot of strong guys in this game. There was only one David Ortiz."
Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.