Major League Baseball is back in Boston. The Red Sox have a lot to prove after two, to put it as mildly as I can, “disappointing” seasons. With some promising new faces and developing young talent, there is a lot to be excited about for this season and beyond for the hometown boys. Yet, a mere handful of games into the season, I can already say that this season is unlike any in recent history. Everyone is well aware that this will be the last season in David Ortiz’s career. However, even though Big Papi is saying he is very comfortable with his decision to hang it up after this year, I must admit, I most certainly am not.
I think the best way to explain what David Ortiz means to Red Sox Nation is depicted by a conversation I had in my high school literature class. Every day, we would start class with a commonly used allusion, and one early spring day the allusion was “deus ex machina.” We learned that deus ex machina means, “ a character or thing that suddenly enters the story in a novel, play, movie, etc., and solves a problem that had previously seemed impossible to solve.” My literature professor asked for examples, and as I wracked my brain while simultaneously trying to avoid her gaze, one person came to mind, David Ortiz. Now she was a Yankees fan, so this example was not her favorite (nor do I think I was her favorite student, but I digress). However, David Ortiz is someone that consistently comes and saves the day for the Boston Red Sox. Just when Red Sox fans are about to lose all hope for their team, here comes the smiley, 6’5” Dominican designated hitter with the ability to easily send baseballs into the grandstands with a swing of the bat.
David Ortiz, in my mind, single handedly changed the narrative for the Boston Red Sox. Just ask any Red Sox fan that is older than 30. When the game is close in the later innings, those fans expect the Red Sox to lose. Who can blame them? After suffering through 86 years of the “curse” which featured some MAJOR postseason collapses (@Bill Buckner), I too would be very pessimistic while watching Boston play. However, this generation of Red Sox Nation has experienced something completely different.
It all started by dropping the first three games to the New York Yankees in the ALCS, completely in tune with the curse narrative of the Sox. Then a mirage of things happened, inspired by one man: David Ortiz. A walk-off homer in Game 4, a game winning single in Game 5, then all of a sudden the Red Sox had life. Two victories later they had pinned the biggest collapse in sports history on the Yankees. (Side note: Dare I say the 27 championships taste a little less sweet because of that disastrous collapse to Boston in ’04, New York?) Thus, David Ortiz led the Red Sox back to the Promised Land and destroyed the narrative of the curse.
From that point forward, everything changed. When the Red Sox are down a couple runs in the late innings, or facing a game deficit in the playoffs, I expect them to pull it off. More specifically, I expect David Ortiz to come up and hit a high fly ball that carries into the Red Sox bullpen in right field to deliver us to victory. David means so much more to this city than just baseball though; I argue that he is the heartbeat of this city. Of course, every Bostonian remembers Big Papi’s NSFW quote after the Boston Marathon. I do not think any person alive could have better summed up Boston’s mindset in a mere five words. Ortiz’s entire speech was a thing of beauty, thanking those who acted fearlessly on that day, paying homage to the dead and injured, yet at the same time saying to terrorists around the world, “you chose the wrong city to mess with.” I do not think any politician, intellectual, or city official could have delivered a better speech with weeks of practice, and Ortiz went off the cuff.
There was the home run in the 2013 ALCS against the Tigers that turned a bullpen cop into a Boston Icon. There was the absolute obliteration of the bullpen phone after an umpire missed some strike calls. Or how about the time Papi fought Kevin Gregg after he told him to run to first? There were his four hundredth home run and his five hundredth home run. There were 17 walk-off hits, of which 11 were homers, even though it felt like there were at least 100 of them. There were three World Series titles. There were so many countless memories made from the man, who I believe, is the most important baseball player the city of Boston has ever seen.
So David, I know you are not done until the end of this year, and will provide us with a few more incredible memories. I know you are ready for whatever life throws your way after this season. But what I want you to know, is that your impact on this city, on this team, and on young fans like myself, goes unparalleled. Just know I will be crying as you step off the field at Fenway for the last time. Just know this is your “effin” city, Big Papi.