I am a lifelong Yankees fan, and I have never once questioned that. But reading the headline of this article, you must think that I am into some sort of masochism. Why would I love the bane of the Yankees’ existence for over a decade? This is the man who, time and time again, shattered our hopes and dreams. He helped bring the Red Sox the World Series title in 2004, relieving them from the 86-year-long curse that defined their franchise — one that gave me great schadenfreude. And then he did it again three years later. And again, six years after that.
So, why would I love David Ortiz?
Summer of 2007
Let me take you back to the summer of 2007. On June 15, Bob Barker aired his last episode of the Price of Right. Later that month, the first iPhone went on sale in the United States. On Aug. 7, Barry Bonds earned the Home Run King title with his 756th bomb off Michael Bacsik. About a week and a half later, my family and I embarked on our regular vacation traveling to different baseball stadiums around the country.
This is something we would do every year between the end of my summer camp and the beginning of my school year. Often, we would start in Chicago and drive to New York, going to games in Detroit, Pittsburgh, Boston, and more along the way.
My brother and I have been huge memorabilia collectors for our entire lives. Some of my earliest memories involve me, at around age five, sneaking around old Yankee Stadium and trying to avoid the security guards so I could get autographs. By 2007, whenever I stepped into a stadium, I was conditioned to be on alert for how and where I could get an autograph or some memorabilia.
Aug. 24, 2017
One of the first games we went to was on Aug. 23: Red Sox at White Sox. It rained for three hours. I ate a couple churros, and then they postponed the game for a doubleheader the next day. On Aug. 24, only about 1,000 fans showed up for the make-up game, so you could sit wherever you wanted. My family picked spots a couple rows back behind the Red Sox dugout.
At the beginning of the game, while Ortiz was in the on-deck circle, I noticed a kid about my age go up to him and ask: “Could I have your bat at the end of the game?” Ortiz looked at him and gave him a nod.
Surely, I thought to myself, it can’t be that easy. He is one of the biggest stars in the game — a perennial MVP candidate. If you wanted his bat, is asking politely all you had to do?
Since Mark Buehrle wasn’t on the mound, the game took almost four hours and the Red Sox battered the White Sox for 11 runs. But my attention was on Ortiz and the kid. Every time he went to warm up in the on-deck circle, the kid would walk back up to him and get Ortiz’s attention. In response, Ortiz would nod at the kid as a way to say, “I got you.”
Finally, when the game was over, I saw the kid go to the corner of the dugout and get Ortiz’s attention. Ortiz noticed him, reached down, and handed him a beauty of a game-used bat.
I was in shock that this actually worked.
I made sure to remember everything the kid had done, because my family would be going to a game at Fenway in the beginning of September.
Sept. 1, 2007
Cut to Sept. 1, Orioles at Red Sox. Two rookies faced off: Garret Olson for Baltimore and Clay Buchholz for Boston. Luckily, my family had seats relatively close to the Red Sox dugout, and I decided that this would be the perfect opportunity to put my plan into action.
At the bottom of the first, I went up to the on-deck circle and did exactly what the kid in Chicago had done. I asked Ortiz, “Papí, could I have your bat at the end of the game?” And just as he did last time, he gave me a nod.
Okay, I thought, this is all going according to plan. When he went to the on-deck circle in the third inning, I went back up to him, got his attention again, and he gave me the same response.
But then things started to get interesting. By the end of the sixth inning, Buchholz had only allowed a couple walks and no hits. The crowd started getting more alive as they slowly realized what was going on. Soon enough, I couldn’t get Ortiz’s attention in the on-deck circle due to the loud crowd noise.
My brother and I were getting nervous. Him, because the Yankees and Red Sox were in a close battle in the standings, and a win here for the Red Sox would hurt the Yankees’ chances of getting the division title. I, on the other hand, was simultaneously excited about potentially witnessing my first no-hitter ever and was nervous that Ortiz would forget about me during the chaotic post-game celebration.
After Buchholz mowed down the order 1-2-3 in the seventh and eighth innings, I started planning how to sneak down to the corner of the Red Sox dugout. The problem is that a security was posted right there and blocked access to that area.
In the top of the ninth, Buchholz got two outs off Brian Roberts and Corey Patterson before he worked the count to 1-2 against Nick Markakis.
And with a curveball situated down and away, barely catching the edge of the zone, Buchholz caught Markakis looking, completing the no-hitter.
The crowd went wild and players poured onto the field.
I used this as an opportunity to sneak past security, and suddenly I found myself positioned five feet away from the bat rack in the dugout. I waited there anxiously as the team mobbed the rookie, becoming the third pitcher since 1900 to throw a no-hitter in his first two starts.
A couple minutes later, the team trickled back into the dugout. Within seconds, they started packing their equipment up, and Ortiz walked over to the bat rack. By this point, he had not noticed me at all. I tried getting his attention by shouting at the top of my lungs, “Papí! Papí!” But I couldn’t even hear myself screaming among the deafening roar of the crowd.
He spent what felt like an eternity fiddling around with his bats, but it was probably only about 10 seconds. Then, out of nowhere, he looked up at me, reached down into the bat holder and handed me a flawless game-used bat.
I was in shock.
I couldn’t believe the plan I noticed weeks ago in Chicago had actually worked for me, too. And I was astounded that he actually remembered me, especially amidst the raucous celebration surrounding a no-hitter.
In reflecting on this experience 13 years later, despite all the torment Ortiz put me through as a Yankees fan, I couldn’t hate him. This is still the coolest piece of memorabilia I have ever personally gotten, and this was maybe the nicest thing a baseball player had ever done for me.
Sincerely, thank you David Ortiz for making a young kid’s entire world by giving him a memory he would never forget, and a gift to share and pass on through his family.
Even though he will always be a Red Sox, I will always love David Ortiz.
Photos by Parker Harrington (licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license -https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en) and Arturo Pardavila III (licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en) | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)