by Jacob Gurvis
The day that all Boston Red Sox fans have been dreading is now upon us. The beloved David Ortiz has announced that he will be retiring after the 2016 season. “Big Papi” has been a fan-favorite and a household name in New England for the past 13 years, but the greatest designated hitter of all time is hanging up his cleats after one final hurrah.
November 18, 2015, his fortieth birthday, Ortiz announced in a video on the Players’ Tribune website that he will be retiring after this season. “I thought a lot about it,” said Ortiz. “Every single one of us, athletes-wise, we run out of time at some point. Life is based on different chapters and I think I’m ready to experience the next one in my life.
January 22, 2003, young Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein made one of his many franchise-changing acquisitions. Epstein signed free agent David Ortiz, a 27-year-old designated hitter and first baseman who had never hit more than twenty home runs in a season, and had only played more than 100 games twice in his six years in the majors.
Suffice it to say that Ortiz went on to become one of the best players in Red Sox history, and arguably the most clutch player in baseball history. Let’s break down his miraculous career.
In 2003, his first season in Boston, Ortiz hit 31 home runs with 101 runs batted in, and ended fifth in the American League Most Valuable Player voting. This would become only the first of Ortiz’s nine 30 home run/100 RBI seasons, the most in Red Sox history. Ortiz was an All-Star every season from 2004 to 2013, with the exception of 2009, an off-year for Papi (he hit 28 homers with 99 RBIs). Ortiz finished in the top five for AL MVP voting every year from 2003 to 2007, and was runner up to Alex Rodriguez in 2005. In 2006, Ortiz slugged 54 homers with 137 RBIs and 119 walks, leading the league in all three categories. So yes, Ortiz was (and still is) one of the game’s premier hitters.
But beyond the All-Star games, the Silver Sluggers, and the ridiculous postseason stats (in the 2013 World Series, he had 11 hits in 16 at-bats), David Ortiz is most known for his personality. Big Papi is the lovable, smiley presence that has held the Red Sox clubhouse together for years. Ortiz is a leader on and off the field, and is one of sport’s most charitable and generous figures. Ortiz has always played a large role in the greater Boston community, and the David Ortiz Children’s Fund helps provide necessary medical services for children in New England and the Dominican Republic.
Ortiz has been a beloved player throughout his time in Boston, and he will be sorely missed.
“It is difficult to adequately convey what David Ortiz has meant to the Boston Red Sox,” said Red Sox principal owner John Henry. “For his teammates, he has been the one constant force underpinning what it means to play for this organization and making it fun. For the fans, he has been the one consistent force behind three world championships, lifting all of us on his broad shoulders exactly when we needed it. For the community, he has been the hero providing leadership off the field in ways that consistently make a difference – often completely unseen. And for those of us who have had the honor of knowing him all these years, he has been exactly what you hope to see in a man who has been the face of this organization. As he concludes his illustrious career in this, his final season, we look forward to joining everyone in the game of baseball in showing him just how much Big Papi has meant to all of us.”
I could not have said it better. Ortiz has represented the ultimate leader and champion. His passion, leadership, and abilities have formed to create a very rare player whom we have had the pleasure of watching these past 13 seasons. In his video, Ortiz said, “I would like people to remember me as a guy that was just part of the family. A guy that was trying to do the best, not only on the field, with everyone around him.”
Well Big Papi, I think it’s safe to say you’ve accomplished that time and time again. So, thank you, David Ortiz. Thanks for the memories, the big home runs, and the contagious smile. I look forward to seeing what you have in store for us in your final season.