BOSTON -- David Ortiz's adoring fans in Boston had another chance to applaud him on Wednesday night when Big Papi was recognized with the Baseball Legacy Award at the New England Sports Museum’s annual “The Tradition” event.
In truth, Ortiz’s legacy has long been established -- in Boston, the Dominican Republic and in the baseball world.
But coming back home to the city where he built his legend never gets old to the charismatic former slugger, who was a central figure in leading the Red Sox to three World Series championships in his 16 seasons of mashing.
“It’s an honor,” said Ortiz. “A lot of people are taking their time to recognize all of us as athletes. It’s something that’s very special. Boston is an incredible city, a second home. Whenever something like this is going on, we always appreciate it.”
Of course, the ultimate honor could be on deck for Ortiz. In, this, his first year on the Hall of Fame ballot, results will be announced on Jan. 25, 2022 on MLB Network.
For someone who has received nearly every accolade his sport provides, this would be a crowning achievement for No. 34.
“Like I always say, there’s things in life that you have no control over,” said Ortiz. “The only thing I had control over is the baseball bat, when my turn showed up. I think I did OK and hopefully at some point, it happens. Who doesn’t want to be part of that elite group of Hall of Famers?”
For Ortiz, it would be particularly meaningful given his story. He was a big man, but not a big prospect.
With the Minnesota Twins, he was an injury-prone platoon player who topped out with 20 homers in 2002.
After that season, the Twins released him. Pedro Martinez, who had been taken deep by Ortiz at the Metrodome just a few months earlier, couldn’t believe it when Ortiz told him about the release during a chance encounter at a Dominican Republic eatery that January.
Martinez immediately got on the horn to the Red Sox and made his push to Boston to sign Ortiz. It didn’t take much. General manager Theo Epstein made a one-year, $1.25 million offer that Ortiz quickly accepted.
By midseason of ‘03, Ortiz got what he had been begging for his entire career up to that point -- a chance to play every day.
Though there were a couple of slumps along the way, Ortiz basically raked for the rest of his career, all of which was spent in Boston.
Ortiz’s impact transcended his sport.
“Just the way they got him, the story of him coming from Minnesota and the way the Red Sox were able to acquire him and for him to turn into such a legend and a Hall of Famer immediately in a Red Sox uniform was an incredible story,” said former Boston Celtics player and executive Danny Ainge, who presented Kevin McHale with the Basketball Legacy Award. “But yeah, just a great, great player and one of the great legends in Red Sox history.”
And one of the greatest personalities.
“He started out when I was in Minnesota [running the Timberwolves], so a good friend of mine who was the equipment manager with the Timberwolves when I was there, Clayton Wilson, knew him and just had funny story after funny story about Big Papi,” said McHale. “And he won the championships and just had a great career here in Boston. I knew of him a little before I met him. He’s a big personality. He’s a lot of fun.”
For Ortiz, whatever recognition comes his way from here is gravy.
“I was a kid that one day started playing baseball just for fun and then all of a sudden I had to take it more seriously because of my family, putting my family in a better situation,” said Ortiz. “Then I had to take it more seriously because a lot of people started depending on me and all of a sudden, they turned your name out there with the best players of all-time. You can’t ask for more than that.”