David Ortiz had an inkling that Tuesday was going to be one of the most special days of his life.
So when he put together a guest list of people who would join him at his home in the Dominican Republic in the event that he was elected to the Hall of Fame, the first person who got an invite was Pedro Martinez.
When the results came in, Ortiz joined his close friend and mentor Martinez in the most elite classification that exists in Cooperstown -- first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Ortiz knows full well that his career likely wouldn’t have gotten on a Hall of Fame track without Martinez’s motivational words.
“He knew what I was capable of,” Ortiz said. “And he just kept on telling me, whispering in my ears, ‘Hey, keep on working, stay in shape because the time is going to come and I don’t want you to let go.’”
Martinez was already entrenched as a baseball legend by 2002, when the Twins made the ultimately regrettable decision of releasing Ortiz. He had also taken a liking to Ortiz long before they were teammates, as they would bump into each other during the offseason in the Dominican Republic.
The interest on the open market was tepid for Ortiz. At some point during that time period, Martinez ran into Ortiz at a restaurant in the DR and was shocked to hear his friend was out of work. Martinez spoke to Larry Lucchino, the team’s president/CEO at that time, to put in a good word. Lucchino passed it on to Theo Epstein, and the rest became history.
Shortly thereafter, Ortiz signed a one-year, $1.25 million deal to come to the Red Sox. There were many other Boston contracts in his future, as he would remain raking in the city for 14 seasons, helping to put three championship banners up at Fenway.
“I don’t think, without Pedro here, this would have happened,” Ortiz said of getting to the Hall of Fame. “Pedro has been like a big brother to me, how he encouraged me in so many wonderful things. Pedro has so much value of when it comes down to being a teammate, being a friend, representing an organization. I mean, Pedro is the full package. And I was so lucky and blessed by God to have someone when I really needed in my career like him. So without question, he was the first one that I invited to be part of what is going on right now.”
While Martinez and Ortiz were teammates for just two seasons with the Red Sox, they made the most of their time together.
In ’03, Boston battled in a memorable American League Championship Series against the Yankees, losing a heartbreaker in Game 7.
A year later, Ortiz, Martinez and the Red Sox got their sweet revenge, becoming the first team in history to come back from an 0-3 deficit in a postseason series, this time beating the Yankees in seven games and going on to win the World Series.
While Martinez left for the Mets as a free agent following that ’04 season and later played for the Phillies, Ortiz led the Red Sox to two more championships.
But Martinez was never far from his mind then or now.
And as Ortiz gets ready for the big celebration set for July 24 at 1:30 p.m. ET in Cooperstown, he will lean on the person who went into the Hall of Fame seven years ago.
“You know I’ve got Pedro by my side at all times, so we’re going to have some conversations when it comes down to Cooperstown,” Ortiz said. “He’s the one with the experience. He’s going to have to babysit me just like he did once I got to the Red Sox. He’s going to have to coach me on everything. But Pedro is like a big brother to me and I talk to Pedro every day, so that will make it easier for me.”