Congratulations to David Ortiz, better known as Big Papi, for his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame – one of only three designated hitters, DH, to receive that honor.
I was glued to the television when the Red Sox had their own tribute to Big Papi.
Big Papi is a hero to many, and not just because of baseball. He has character; goodness, humor, a never-give-up attitude, and he’s a leader. We need heroes like Big Papi. He quietly gives to children and charities. He loudly supports Boston. He was the one who spoke up after the terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon years ago to say “We are Boston Strong.” That phrase became iconic and still sticks today. Big Papi exemplifies what I teach children.
When asked his favorite Red Sox moment, here is a photo that tells the story:
Early in his career, Torii Hunter was dubbed “Spider-Man” for his acrobatic, wall-scaling catches but perhaps “Daredevil” is the more apt comic book comparison. After all, Hunter is, clearly, the outfielder without fear.
The 38-year-old, nine-time Gold Glove Award winner put his fearlessness on display yet again with an all-out attempt to rob Red Sox slugger David Ortiz of a game-tying, grand slam in the eighth inning of Game 2 of the American League Championship Series. Despite the best effort of the Tigers’ right fielder, the deep drive off the bat of Ortiz carried just over the wall into the home bullpen at Fenway Park — and Hunter followed.
Of course I have my own story. “It happened like this…”
Growing up in Huntington, West Virginia, the closest major league baseball team was the Cincinnati Reds. My dad would drive us to Cincinnati every summer. He desperately wanted to go to the ball park and see a game. In the car, we had to listen to baseball on the radio. I wanted rock and roll, not baseball. I wanted to shop at stores with my mom (who didn’t like any sports) and go to the zoo. My sister went to the ballpark with our dad, and I went shopping with our mother.
Fast forward to getting married, and finally learning about the great sport of baseball. I loved watching the Cincinnati Reds, especially “Charlie Hustle”, Pete Rose.
And then we moved to Massachusetts. The first Red Sox player I loved was Pedro Martinez (the one in the photo.) Interestingly, one of the parents in my class that year had her son in the same school with Pedro’s son, Little Pedro. Well…of course I wrote a letter. This was my first brave, reach-out letter. I invited Pedro and his son to our class to hang out, read a story, and make a special snack. I talked about Groton’s lack of diversity, and how a casual ‘hang out’ would do wonders for the children. No baseball, just kids.
I didn’t hear back from Pedro. He was doing other things at the time, like trying to get David Ortiz onto the Red Sox team. They were friends, and thanks to Pedro, it happened.
Watching Big Papi play baseball was always exciting, especially his swing of the bat. It must have been the same for fans who watched Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, or other great ball players. I watched one of the greats, too.
My cross to bear is that I never went to a baseball game with my dad. I think he is smiling up in heaven, knowing that I finally ‘found’ baseball, even on the radio.