BOSTON -- Everyone at Fenway Park on Sunday saw a side of David Ortiz that they had never seen before.An emotional Big Papi was touched by the final ceremony that honored his career and 14 seasons with the Red Sox before his last regular-season game, a 2-1 loss to the
BOSTON -- Everyone at Fenway Park on Sunday saw a side of David Ortiz that they had never seen before.
An emotional Big Papi was touched by the final ceremony that honored his career and 14 seasons with the Red Sox before his last regular-season game, a 2-1 loss to the Blue Jays.
The Red Sox put together a special commemoration filled with love and unforgettable memories, featuring Red Sox Hall of Famers and astounding gifts.
There were no shortage of tears or smiles as the Red Sox Foundation presented Ortiz with a $500,000 check to the David Ortiz Children's Fund that surgically saved 563 lives. Moments later, Red Sox ownership, including John Henry and Tom Werner, matched that donation to bring the generous contribution to a total of $1 million.
"The Red Sox, they know how hard we work to keep on saving lives, give back to the community," Ortiz said. "What they did today, to me, it's bigger than hitting 500 home runs. It's bigger than hitting [the] game-winning RBI. It's bigger than anything you can compare it to because you're talking about saving lives.
"When you get a $1 million donation, that's something that goes beyond everything because you know that it's going to mean a lot of kids are going to have their lives back. And I don't even know how to thank them. I had so many emotions going on through it."
• Ortiz humbled to go into sunset at top of game
As fans in the bleachers held up signs that created the No. 34, the Red Sox announced Ortiz's number will be retired in a ceremony next year. The slugger pumped his fists, clapped his hands and smiled ear to ear in appreciation.
Ortiz couldn't hold back his tears as former Red Sox World Series champions walked out from behind a red curtain in center field, led by ex-teammate and beloved friend, Pedro Martinez. A total of 24 players joined Ortiz on the field, including Manny Ramirez, Kevin Millar, Nomar Garciaparra, Curt Schilling, Kevin Youkilis and Jason Varitek. Big Papi made sure to hug every single one of them.
Ortiz was then joined by his family in front of the mound, including his wife, daughter, son and father. As he was handed a microphone to make a speech, Ortiz wrapped his arm around his dad and began thanking the Red Sox for giving him the opportunity to play for them.
The slugger, rarely seen with anything but an infectious smile on his face, choked up as he remembered his mother. Taking a moment to regain his composure, Ortiz said, "Woo, OK. I'm back," before going on to thank his dad and the rest of his family.
He then went on one knee, doffed his cap and honored the fans both in attendance and around the nation for their infinite support in the game. The sold-out Fenway Park crowd responded with chants of "Papi" and deafening cheers.
"He deserves that, plus a lot more," David Price said. "What he has meant to the Red Sox and meant to this community, he goes far and beyond what he's done on the field. That's a legacy to me and that's very special."
Ortiz was joined by many significant people on Sunday, including the president of the Dominican Republic, Danilo Medina. He threw the first pitch to Big Papi before taking a selfie with him at the mound.
Mayor of Boston Marty Walsh, Governor Charlie Baker and Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo presented him with a sign that said, "David Ortiz Drive," which will be the new name of the street that intersects with the commuter rail station near Fenway Park.
"It is bittersweet," Walsh said. "Everything was great, but as he was looking at the last video and I was looking at him, I was thinking, 'This is his last regular-season game at Fenway Park.' We have great memories and so many memories still to make. He is a legend and will be missed by all of us."
The overpass above Mass Pike on Brookline Ave. will be called the "Big Papi" Bridge.
"Every bridge in Boston has practically been named after someone," Baker said. "We were shocked, stunned, amazed and thoroughly psyched that the bridge over Brookline Ave., that so many Red Sox fans have walked on through the years, had not actually been named. To name it after David Ortiz and get out colleagues in the legislature to whip that one up in minutes was a terrific opportunity to do something for him."
Third-base coach Brian Butterfield presented Ortiz with custom-made L.L. Bean boots. Red Sox President Sam Kennedy and president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski jogged out of the dugout to give Ortiz a golden bat as well.
The Red Sox honored Ortiz's native country with an enormous Dominican Republic flag draped over the Green Monster followed by the nation's national anthem. Artist Mary J. Blige concluded the ceremony with a rendition of the United States' national anthem, followed by the song "One."
After all was said and done, it was clear the slugger's legacy will impact the city of Boston for many years to come.
"With no disrespect to the greats that have worn this uniform, I think what we've seen over the past 14-15 years, the way this franchise has elevated itself, there may be no more important player ever in this organization," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "It would be a great debate and there'd be tremendous support for many of those other great names, but you can make the argument that he may be the most important player in franchise history to date."
Deesha Thosar is a reporter for MLB.com based in Boston.