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Papi gives heartfelt speech in return to Fenway

@IanMBrowne
September 9, 2019

BOSTON -- In a moment that sent Fenway Park into a state of delirium, Red Sox legend David Ortiz tossed the first pitch prior to Monday night's finale of a four-game series against the Yankees. It marked Ortiz's first public appearance since he suffered a gunshot wound in the Dominican

BOSTON -- In a moment that sent Fenway Park into a state of delirium, Red Sox legend David Ortiz tossed the first pitch prior to Monday night's finale of a four-game series against the Yankees.

It marked Ortiz's first public appearance since he suffered a gunshot wound in the Dominican Republic on June 9.

Big Papi tossed his pitch to former teammate and Red Sox captain Jason Varitek, and they shared an embrace after.

Then, Ortiz, who was wearing sunglasses and a Red Sox home jersey, took to the microphone and spoke as he usually does -- from the heart.

"First of all, I want to thank God for giving me a second opportunity in my life to be able to be here with all of you," Ortiz said. "I want to thank the Red Sox, my real family, they have always been there for me, supported [me]. With what happened to me, they were the first supporting me. Thank you very much, Red Sox family."

Ortiz had three surgeries and was at last released from Massachusetts General Hospital on July 29. He is said to be doing much better and is expected to make a full recovery.

"I think any time you see a brother, a teammate, as someone who means so much to you, in good spirits, I think it's a positive thing," said Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. "We're just glad to know he's back being who he is."

The 43-year-old Ortiz looked and sounded healthy.

"I want to thank all of you for all the prayers, all of them came home," Ortiz said. "I really appreciate it. Thank you very much. I want to thank my former teammates for being there for me. And also, all of them came home to check on their boy. Also, I want to thank the Yankees, a lot of my boys over there came over to check on Big Papi. Thank you very much. I appreciate it. Thank you very much. God bless you all. Go Sox."

The Yankees were thrilled to be there for Ortiz's return to Fenway.

"Awesome. Awesome to see him back and healthy," said Yankees star slugger Aaron Judge. "That was a whole scary scene, what happened with him. I prayed for him throughout that whole process. To see him go out there, walk on that field and throw a pitch out was fantastic. The city, the fans were going crazy for it. We were, too, all clapping for him. Just happy to see him back. It's Big Papi."

The retired slugger played for the Red Sox from 2003-16, guiding the franchise to three World Series championships while becoming an icon in the community. He has been staying at his Boston-area home since his release from the hospital.

As starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez walked in from the bullpen, he almost couldn't believe his eyes when he realized Ortiz was on the field.

"It was amazing," Rodriguez said. "I didn't know he was coming. I just saw it as soon as I was walking out from the bullpen to the dugout, and I turned to the big screen and saw he was out there. It was a really good moment for everybody here."

At the outset of the ceremony, Ortiz was greeted enthusiastically by Red Sox public address announcer Henry Mahegan.

"Tonight, we welcome one of the most beloved people to ever wear the Red Sox uniform," Mahegan said. "In fact, he may be one of the most beloved people in the history of this city, his city, our city. Won't you please welcome the symbol of resilience, strength, triumph and love, our one and only Big Papi, Red Sox Hall of Famer Number 34, David Ortiz."

From there, the crowd erupted in a joyful way, knowing that Ortiz was finally back where he belonged.

Once the game started, Ortiz took in the game with his wife, Tiffany, in owner John Henry's seats just to the side of where manager Alex Cora stood in the Boston dugout.

"It's always good to see the big man," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "For the fans to see him is awesome. For the players, I always say David is kind of like a rockstar baseball player. That vibe. It's amazing. I'm glad he was able to come here and hang out with us and see that he's doing a lot better."

As a spectator, Ortiz was his jovial self, staying for most of Boston's 5-0 loss to the Yankees.

"We all love Big Papi," said Rodriguez. "Seeing him out there was really special. He was right next to the dugout. He even gave me a high-five after the first inning. That was special for me."

In what has been a difficult season for the Red Sox, seeing Ortiz provided some perspective.

"Amazing," said Bradley. "Like he said, he's very thankful for all the prayers, the doctors. He's a special one to have and I'm glad to have him close to full strength. I mean, any time you go through something that's life altering, you're going to have that greater appreciation knowing that you get another chance. He's always enjoyed life. I'm sure he's going to enjoy it even more now."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.