A giant in Red Sox history, David Ortiz is still a huge figure in sports and life after baseball

This ongoing relationship with the game is a natural outgrowth of a trajectory forged during his playing career, in which an overall commitment to competing for nine innings led to friendships beyond gaming boundaries.

“He brings a lot to this game and beyond,” said Tiger star Miguel Cabrera. We want to follow in his footsteps. We want to be like Big Papy.”

Ortiz, of course, is a Red Sox icon. Over the 14 years from 2003 to 2016, he broke 500 people – 483 in the regular season, 17 in the playoffs – and made 10 All-Star Teams, field accomplishments that served as the bedrock of his election to the Hall of Fame.

In Boston, his stature far exceeded those accomplishments. He’s emerged as a central narrative-shattering player in the Red Sox’s transformation from a beleaguered franchise that failed to win a championship over 86 years to one that has racked up four titles in the 21st century – three with Ortiz in the middle of the lineup. . He became the voice of the region in the wake of the Marathon bombings in 2013. He can prove to be the most important Red Sox player of all time.

However, his mark as a player was not limited to the Boston or the Red Sox. The legendary player has emerged as a source for advice for the entire sport. He’s always arrived at Fenway on the phone with someone in the game, anyone from junior player to commissioner Rob Manfred, and that access hasn’t waned in retirement.

“He’s the kind of player that makes our game what it is,” Manfred said.

This has always been the case, dating back to long before Ortiz emerged as a star. Albert Pujols remembers tracking down Ortiz when he was a junior in the Mariners’ system in the 1990s, and he’s been close to him for more than a quarter of a century.

David Ortiz has always been larger than life in Boston, and he will be immortalized in Cooperstown on Sunday.Jim Davis/Globe Stuff

“Back in the Dominican Republic, I had a lot of trouble with my parents because I would skip school to go watch David Ortiz when no one knew David Ortiz. He used to play in Seattle. And the [the Mariners’ Dominican academy] Bogoles said. David was like an older brother to me.

“Just forget the numbers and forget what he did on the field. For me, that’s what he does off the field with his organization and the impact he’s made and the life changes he’s made for others. That’s what I like most about David Ortiz,” Pujols continued. “I can pick up my phone and call him at any time; he can choose him and call me at any time, and every time we speak, he is full of wisdom.”

For Ortiz, this responsibility as a mentor, as someone who answers a call from a younger player, is a precious one. So it’s somewhat surprising that he feels the current generation of gamers aren’t taking full advantage of that.

“In my day, when I’m trying to figure things out, I’d like to have a friend like David Ortiz share his thoughts about the game, about what he knows, what he’s learned,” Ortiz said. “I am a man, I am always open. [But] It’s not like you get a lot of phone calls from players trying to figure things out. So, it’s kind of like, OK, you’ve done something, you’re doing your own thing.”

However, while Ortiz expresses some confusion about the scarcity with which current players communicate with him, players are expressing surprise at how much he communicates with them even after his playing days.

Still a brother to contemporaries from his playing days, Ortiz is a father figure to those who arrived in the major leagues late in Ortiz’s career or since his retirement, sometimes both.

Big Daddy, Big Brother; he’s all hats off to me,” said Mookie Betts, who estimated he still talks to Ortiz at least once a month.

One by one, the All-Stars have witnessed the huge role Ortiz has played and continues to play in their careers and lives. Rafael Devers, who met Ortiz early in his time at the Red Sox, said Ortiz regularly checks in on his family life.

National team star Juan Soto – who made his debut in 2018, two years after Ortiz retired – said that when he got off to a slow start to the season, Ortiz was on the phone about his uncharacteristic struggles. Mariners rising star Julio Rodriguez said he met Ortiz last winter in the Dominican Republic – before Rodriguez made his league debut – where the legend gave encouragement.

“Big Papi is Big Papi. “He hasn’t changed a bit since he retired,” said third baseman Padres Mane Machado. “It’s the same guy. Those are the people you want to be around.”

Manfred is similarly grateful for the contribution Ortiz has made on a variety of issues.

“After I was elected [commissioner]He was one of the first guys I had a relationship with where I can really say he was a friend,” said Manfred. “He has been really helpful to me, always willing to give you honest advice, and this is the best friend you can have.”

David Ortiz’s influence on baseball, the Dominican Republic, and beyond continues well into his retirement.Alexander Thompson/Globe Staff

While Ortiz maintains much of the informal involvement in the game through personal relationships, he has also retained more formal roles within it. Many of the stars who have spent decades in the game, at least for some time, retracted themselves once they retired. Ortiz created a special kind of sparrow round in his post-play career.

“It’s harder to find than the boss,” Alex Cora, the Red Sox manager, joked. “You look and he’s in Boston one day and then he’s in L.A. the other, and then he’s with him [music star] Bad bunny plays softball.”

Ortiz never strayed from the game. He accepted a role immediately after his retirement as a special assistant to the Red Sox, served as a franchise ambassador, speaking to league players big and small, while making appearances in the community and meeting with corporate partners on behalf of the Sox.

“He’s always there and ready to help. He loves the Boston Red Sox, he loves this area, and this fan base,” said Sam Kennedy, President and CEO of Red Sox, who invoked proof of that idea when he visited Ortiz in the hospital when he was recovering from surgeries After his injury in the Dominican Republic: “He’s always available.” “He was locked up in every game and every stadium. And it struck me, you know, that he’s no ordinary retired baseball player.”

In retirement, Ortiz remained the face of the sport, through his work as an analyst for Fox Sports and many of his advertising engagements. Opportunities outpaced his available time.

“It got to the point where I have to say no sometimes,” Ortiz said. “[But] When you’re hot, you’re hot. You have to take advantage of what’s happening now.”

Ortiz’s experience and wealth can create a number of opportunities going forward. Kennedy suggested that Ortiz join a royal group, become more involved with the Red Sox front office, or take a role in working with the league’s office on the direction of the game.

“He’s good at everything,” Kennedy said. “This guy can literally do whatever he wants.”

For now, Ortiz appears revitalized due to his set of responsibilities – someone whose retirement as a player did not signal the fading of the game. His induction into the Hall of Fame is, in many ways, the final mantra defining his football career, but his baseball life continues to evolve.


Alex Speier can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at Tweet embed.

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