David Ortiz just played the final game of his career in a 4-3 loss to the Cleveland Indians, sending the Tribe to the ALCS. Many people knew that this was his final season, yet it didn’t feel real. It still hasn’t kicked in that Big Papi will never play another MLB game again.
When David made the announcement that he was ready to retire at the end of last season, Boston fans had mixed emotions. Everyone agreed on how devastating it would for the Red Sox, but nobody knew just how serious he was. Rumors swirled about him wanting more money, others saying that he was returning with another team in 2017. Nobody knew exactly what to think, and the possibility that the next season that they watched him play in would be his last was not a reality anyone had in mind.
Here we are, almost a year later from the announcement, and Boston is saying goodbye to not only a hero, but a legend.
Big Papi has meant more to Boston than arguably any other athlete to a city in history. He was always the player that every little boy and girl in New England knew the name of, even if they didn’t watch a single Red Sox game. He was every little kid’s favorite player. He had the ability to make Fenway Park stand as one just by coming out of the dugout to warm up. Every department store in Boston’s sports section was 75% Papi jerseys, and 25% everyone else’s. No matter who you were, you knew and loved David Ortiz.
David was the one to bring championship baseball back to Boston. He broke the Curse. Over his illustrious career, he had been counted on by fans to come up big, and he always seemed to rise to the occasion. He brought back more than just a ring to the people of Boston. He brought hope. Nobody expected a collapse anymore. Nobody expected to be disappointed. Everyone knew that when times were tough, they could rely on #34 to bail them out, and time after time, he did just that. Everybody could breathe a little when Papi would come up to the plate in big situations. Come October, he’s the kind of player that you want playing for your side.
Growing up outside of Boston in the early 2000’s, I was lucky enough to watch Big Papi during my childhood. I watched the Red Sox succeed, without feeling the pain of the previous 84 years. I didn’t know what it meant to cheer for a losing team, and a pivotal part of that was Ortiz. I can remember being asked by my friends in elementary school who my favorite player was “besides Big Papi.” It was like he didn’t count, everyone already assumed he would be #1. He had a generation of little leaguers looking up to him, each spitting into their batting gloves and clapping before they would take a swing at the tee, and each pointing to the sky when they crossed home plate. He was a superhero for millions of kids. A little over a decade later, that generation has grown up, and are trying to cope with seeing their superman go.
David was more than just an athlete. He was an icon. He was one of the only players to be so far from average, but also so easily connect with fans and seem just like one of us. That’s why he is like no other. His connection between super-stardom and the everyday people of Boston was a truly beautiful thing to witness. He brought out a side of fans that nobody could, and it was bigger than the game. He made little boys as interested in baseball as their dads, and made dads jump around and be passionate like they were kids again. He brought people together. Through the good times and the bad, he was the one you always couldn’t help but cheer for.
Nobody enjoys seeing Big Papi go. He gave so much to Boston, from World Series titles to passionate emotional speeches. Ortiz embodied the Boston spirit. He played with his heart on his sleeve and gave everything he had to the game. He had the entire city behind him, and united Boston. He was able to connect people just by hitting a ball with a bat, and that, by far, was the greatest thing he gave to the City of Boston. There will never be another David Ortiz. On behalf of all of Boston, thank you Big Papi.