I was five years old when David Ortiz signed with the Boston Red Sox. Living in New Jersey, I was surrounded by Yankees, Mets, and Phillies fans, but I was instilled with an early love of Boston sports from my dad, a Beantown native. By the time David Ortiz wore a Sox uniform for the first time, I was already a die-hard fan.
Over 14 years later, just eight days before my 19th birthday, I witnessed Big Papi play for my last time at Camden Yards in Baltimore. He hit a three run bomb.
I’ve come a long way since 2003, when I stood on the coffee table with my sister, pretending to be a Red Sox cheerleader. I’ve seen three World Series wins, three managers (although who really counts Bobby Valentine), and an entirely new team since 2003, but the DH spot always belonged to Papi. To my generation of Sox fans, he is all we know. And next year, on Opening Day, when number 34 is forever hung on the walls of Fenway Park, the heart and soul of the Boston Red Sox will be missing. For the first time in as long as we can remember, my generation of Sox fans will watch a season begin without David Ortiz.
In 2004, we were just old enough to understand the significance of a Sox World Series win. Ortiz carried the team through the best comeback in sports history. Down three games to none in the American League Championship Series, Papi hit arguably his most memorable HR in the 12th inning of a tied Game 4 to keep the Sox alive. Then in Game 5, he hit his second walk off in a row, this time a single, ultimately leading the Sox to their first title in 81 years and breaking the dreaded Curse of the Bambino. Papi brought winning back to Boston, and us young Sox fans got our first taste of the amazing years that were to come.
In 2007, when Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury were just rookies, Papi helped carry our beloved Red Sox to their second World Series title in three years. He helped turn a young team into champions.
In 2013, the city of Boston was rocked by terrorist attacks, and Barack Obama told the city “…when the Sox, the Celtics, the Patriots, or Bruins are champions again…The crowds will gather and watch a parade go down Boylston Street.” Days later, Ortiz proclaimed to the Fenway Faithful and the city of Boston, “This is our f——- city. And nobody’s going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong.” Six months later, Ortiz hit an astounding .688 in the World Series to help the Red Sox once again become World Champions.
For the third time in our lifetime, we watched the Red Sox parade down Boylston Street.
Throughout the last 14 years, David Ortiz has been the face of the franchise. To those of us who grew up watching him play, it is next to impossible to imagine a Red Sox team without him. We’ve been spoiled by the greatest designated hitter of all time. 541 homeruns, 1,781 RBIs, 2,472 hits, 10 All-Star games, six Silver Slugger Awards and 17 walk-offs later, we are being forced to say goodbye to everyone’s favorite Sox player.
The memories that we are left with are too numerous to count (my favorite is when he smashed the dugout phone), but the legacy that Big Papi has left on me, and this generation of Boston fans, is invaluable. His big heart, big personality, and big bat won him a place in all of our hearts. It’s hard to describe what he means to us, but he has shaped a generation of fans. My dad still loves to wear his Carl Yastrzemski shirt, and tell my sisters and I all about how great of a player he was in the 70’s. One day, I’ll still be wearing my Ortiz shirt, telling the next generation of Boston fans about the most beloved Sox player of my time.
From the generation of Red Sox fans who grew up watching you play,
Thank you, Big Papi.