I met David Ortiz in the winter of 1998. We were both staying at the same hotel, playing for different teams, in the Dominican Winter league. He actually knocked on my door one night around 11 o’clock while I was getting ready for bed. When I looked at the peep hole, I thought I was getting robbed! It was my first time in the Dominican and I had only been there a couple days. I didn’t know him, nor recognize him and he was pounding on my door, yelling, “My Dog, my Dog, open the door!!!”
He finally told me he was a baseball player and when I finally opened the door there was that big smile. That night started a friendship that has lasted almost 25 years. We run into each other from time to time, and when we do, it’s just like the days in the late 90’s in Dominican when we were hanging out together about every day. He hasn’t changed a bit over the years other than the fact that he’s rich now and wears diamonds and lots of jewelry. But the way he treats you, the way he talks to you, his passion for the game and passion for life has never wavered. He is one of the best players I’ve ever been around and had the pleasure of playing with. We were teammates in the DR in 1999 & then again in 2000 during the Caribbean World Series. I was fortunate enough to see him get so many big hits in the Dominican Winter league and in the Caribbean WS, before the legend of “Big Popi” ever existed.
I have lots of great stories about him both on the field and off, but this one will give you a glimpse of just who he is as a person.
I believe it was around 2011-2012 or so, he was playing in spring training for the Red Sox and they were on the road in Jupiter against the Marlins. I was the Double-A Manager at the time for the Marlins. My son, Isaiah, was with me and was probably eight years old or so. Isaiah was in full Marlins uniform, hanging out with me on the back fields as I prepared my team for that day’s game. As Isaiah and I headed in for lunch, I asked him if he wanted to meet “Big Popi.” Of course, he smiled, look surprised, and say a Wow type of “Yes!!!!
So, we walked in the back, left field gate at the ballpark, by the visitor’s clubhouse in Jupiter and asked one of my former players in camp with the Sox, to grab David out of the clubhouse for me. After a couple of minutes, he came right out and gave me one of his trademark hugs!! After we exchanged greetings & pleasantries, I introduced David to my Son. David squats down and says hello, asked him how old he was and if he liked baseball etc. Then he did something for me that I could never repay him for. He looked Isaiah in the eye, and said, “Let me tell you something, your Daddy was a really, really, good baseball player.” Isaiah looked at me with a proud glow. I hid the tears behind my sunglasses. Although Isaiah knew I was once a professional baseball player, he was too young to remember watching his Dad play. To take the time to be intentional to say that to my Son is a moment I could never repay him for.
I remember walking away with Isaiah and him looking at me a little differently that day. I could tell him all I wanted to about my playing career, but to hear that from “Big Popi” was a game changer.
Thanks David. Thanks for being my friend, for being so kind. And for taking the time to make your old buddy & his son feel good. You clearly didn’t have to do that.
Fast forward 6-7 years, David’s son DeAngelo & Isaiah became buddies in Boston and hit together in the cage as their Dads watched together with Pride.
Congrats my friend on being a Hall of Famer.
David & I, Spring Training, 1999, Ft. Myers, FL