Bound for Cooperstown, David Ortiz Reflects on 20 Years of Repping Boston

We spoke with the all-time Red Sox slugger ahead of his Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Sunday

July 21, 2022 6:59 am
David Ortiz gazes out across an empty Fenway Park.
Even though he retired in 2016, David Ortiz is still at home in Fenway Park.

Bergeron. Pierce. Brady.

Were you to carve out a Mount Rushmore honoring the biggest Boston sports icons of the last 20 years from the city’s professional teams, the championship-winning faces of Patrice, Paul and Tom would be etched in stone. But they would all, even TB12, be given second billing to the smiling face of Boston Red Sox legend David Ortiz.

A native of the Dominican Republic who never met a hug he didn’t like and return, Ortiz came to Boston in 2003 as a relatively unknown player who had fewer than 60 home runs in six years with the Minnesota Twins and retired from Major League Baseball as Big Papi after hitting 483 more during 14 seasons with the Red Sox. Those statistics, along with more than 1,760 RBI, 1,400 runs scored, 2,470 hits, 10 All-Star appearances and three World Series titles, were enough to land the 46-year-old a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

Ahead of Ortiz’s induction ceremony on Sunday, we sat down with the all-time Sox slugger, who just released his own line of eyewear in collaboration with Zenni, to find out how he’s planning to handle his speech, what it was like competing with Brady for championships and when was the last time he had to pay for a drink in Boston.

David Ortiz was an All-Star for half of his 20-year MLB career.
David Ortiz is heading from Fenway Park to Cooperstown.

InsideHook: What are you going to wear for your HOF speech, and what are you going to talk about?

David Ortiz: I might wear some Zenni sunglasses from the new collection. I’m a glasses guy and there are a lot of different choices. You never know. Everybody has been asking me about the speech. I don’t think it’ll be too hard. I think it’s a good time to send a big message to the whole world about things. All eyes are on you. I think that’s where my focus is going to be besides thanking whoever I have to thank. I like to spread peace and love because that’s what we need as of right now. I think we need to see more of it on big stages. I’m not a negative person. I’m all positive and I like to connect with people. I know it’s gonna be my moment when my time comes.

This will probably be your most famous speech since you took the microphone at Fenway Park in 2013 before the first home game after the Boston Marathon bombing.

That’s right. I have four kids and I’m really worried about what is coming in the future for them with the way things are going. I feel like I don’t even wanna go to public places because of everything that is going on right now. I feel the same way with my kids. That type of feeling worries me because I love seeing people having fun and enjoying life. The 24 hours you went through yesterday are gone. You’re not getting them back. It’s time for us to realize life is very short and we need to start taking care of each other so we can stay here longer. It’s as simple as that. I came from nothing basically, but I had a great childhood because it was nothing but peace and love. The world wasn’t what it is back then, know what I’m saying? Giving love and peace is always welcome. It’s not hard, man.

David Ortiz still calls Fenway Park home.
David Ortiz still looks comfortable with a bat in his hands.

There was a lot of peace and love after you won Boston’s first World Series in 86 years in 2004. Have you realized that was almost 20 years ago?

It seems like it happened yesterday. I can remember what I did before all of those games. It was fun. We changed things around New England when it comes to sports. It was something that impacted the world. You would never think an organization like the Red Sox would take that long to win a World Series, but I guess that’s what makes sports fun. The organization understood winning was important because people were expecting it after that one. In the past 18 years, we’ve put together four World Series. That tells you a lot.

What was it like being such a big part of all the winning in Boston after the turn of the century?

That was a hell of an era. During my time, the Bruins won, the Patriots dominated and we had the Big Three getting it done for the Celtics and us, the Red Sox, putting it together too. Sports went to a different level in New England. It’s crazy and it’s hard to explain because you know how hard it is to have four different organizations in the same city winning championships in the same decade. Every big fish from every single organization would be like, “I’m winning this year.” It would be like, “No, no, no, I’m winning this year.” It seemed like we were having a competition between us. I think it was a motivation for the owners of the organizations too. I’m pretty sure they had conversations about it. It was very enjoyable.

When was the last time you had to pay for a beer in Boston?

I have been so blessed. If I had the opportunity to have a career again, I would definitely pick Boston. The city has been so great to me and I’m thankful for the way everything has gone down. I had my times when things weren’t going the way I wanted, but I think that’s part of the process. You learn from it. I also think I was really good at putting up with the media. I understood what their job was, so I never made the mistakes that some of my teammates and players before me made. They’re gonna point fingers at you in different ways, but that doesn’t mean you have to look at everyone in the same way. They saw me trying to give them their time on a daily basis and trying to help the ballclub win championships, so everything basically worked out the right way. At the end of the day, I think that helped me out a lot with my Hall of Fame ballot.

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