"One of the best clutch hitters in the history of baseball, 541 career home runs, the driving force for three World Series championships for the Boston Red Sox...please welcome Hall of Famer 'Big Papi' David Ortiz."
Papi! Papi! Papi!
There were loud chants and joyous cheers Sunday as David Ortiz was introduced and walked onto the stage in Cooperstown, New York, for Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.
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Fans on the lawn outside the Clark Sports Center waved Dominican Republic flags, held 'Papi for President' signs, donned Red Sox attire and sounded horns to celebrate the Boston slugger, perhaps the greatest clutch hitter of all time, who has now achieved baseball immortality after a remarkable career that included 10 All-Star selections.
The first ballot Hall of Famer hit 541 home runs in 20 big league seasons and helped the Boston Red Sox win three World Series championships. He is just the 58th player selected by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in his first year of eligibility, and he served as a designated hitter more than any previous inductee.
Known for his ability to come through in the clutch -- and also knowing a thing or two about memorable speeches -- there was little doubt that the 46-year-old would hit the right mark with his acceptance speech Sunday.
Ortiz, who survived a nightclub shooting three years ago in his native Dominican Republic, started his nearly 20-minute speech by thanking god for the opportunity and strength to stay strong and keep his feet on the ground through all of life's ups and downs.
"This is such an incredible day, incredible honor, and I'm so humbled to be on this stage right now. The last six months, I received a special phone call to be elected to the Hall of Fame. I've been thinking about how I got here to this stage, Cooperstown today. I've been thinking about my life, my career, but most of all the people that believe in me. I want to thank the baseball writers for making me the first designated hitter in the history of Cooperstown to be selected in the first ballot," Ortiz said to loud cheers. "You guys got it going on. Thanks, guys."
Ortiz also thanked Major League Baseball and all of the Hall of Famers present saying, "It's an amazing honor to be a part of this elite group."
Speaking in both English and Spanish throughout his speech, Ortiz thanked his family and said none of this would be possible without them.
"Without you guys, this would never happen. You guys were the engine that started this motor everyday for me to get it going and keep on going," he said. "I love you guys from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for being there for me always."
"Just like your mother, Tiffany Ortiz," he added of his ex-wife, who announced last December on social media that the couple was separating after 25 years together but would move forward as friends and co-parents to the three children they share. "Wherever she at right now, thank you very much Tiffany for supporting me during my career. You're amazing. Thank you very much."
Watch Ortiz's full speech below
Ortiz also thanked the United States, saying this country welcomed him with open arms since he was practically a child and gave him the opportunity to develop and fulfill all his dreams -- and then some more.
"And to all of my American friends, consider this an open invitation to visit my island, the Dominican Republic, a special place where we have a lot of good and happy people, beautiful beaches where you guys can go when you're freezing here," he added with a laugh of his native country. "Before I was Big Papi, before the Red Sox, before the Twins, I was just a kid playing ball in the Dominican Republic.
The Red Sox legend did thank the Minnesota Twins for bringing him into the big leagues and said it taught him something important.
"Even though it didn't work out the way everybody speculated, I learned from my time there, that once I get my shot in any other place, I was going to work hard to never let it go until the last day I played," Ortiz said.
He went on to acknowledge his fellow inductees in the Hall of Fame Class of 2022, people in the Twins organization, and MLB player Kirby Puckett, who Ortiz said was the reason he chose jersey No. 34 when he landed with Boston.
He saved the best for last, moving onto Boston. He started by thanking Sox ownership and front office for building him up and supporting him throughout the years.
He said they educated him about the game but also about life.
"Community service, connecting with people, the Jimmy Fund, the Children's Fund, that's why I started the David Ortiz Children Fund that has provided life saving heart surgery for children in the Dominican Republic and New England," he shared, talking about the impact that ball players can have.
Several of Ortiz's former teammates were in town for his induction including Mike Lowell, Kevin Youkilis, Johnny Damon, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Millar, Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield, and Pedro Martinez, who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2015 and is responsible for Ortiz joining the Boston Red Sox in 2003. The legendary right-handed pitcher lobbied for the Red Sox to take a chance on the slugging first baseman, who was released after six years with the Twins.
While thanking the people who made it possible for him to become a member of the Red Sox, Ortiz turned around on stage and pointed to Martinez seated behind him.
"I wanna thank this guy right here, who you also know, number 45, my compadre Pedro," he said. "I can talk about Pedro all day long."
Ortiz went on to share a few personal stories from the dugout, including one with his first manager Grady Little, who set the tone for the slugger's time in Boston.
"In my very first at bat against the Twins in spring training, I tried to move a runner over," Ortiz shared. "I thought when I got back to the dugout everybody was going to high five me, but everyone stay sit. And the manager pulled me to the side and told me, 'hey big boy, I don't want you to be here to move them over, I want you to be here to bring them in. The rest is history."
"And then I was lucky enough to play for two guys named Terry Francona, who had at the time a guy named John Farrell as a pitching coach who took over as manager," Ortiz added. "These guys did nothing but building my confidence even through tough times. I love you guys, and I'm always going to have you guys in my heart. Tito, wherever you are man, you know Papi got you, John as well."
Ortiz went on to thank his former teammates who were present and showing love, including Damon, Mike Lowell, Pedroia, Trox Nixon, Wakefield, Youkilis, and Martinez again.
"The chicos locos, I want you guys to know that even with the god given talent that I have, I don't think I would have made it without the support and love coming from all of you," he said. "All I was trying to do was bring a team together."
Ortiz went on to share a story about Pedroia, saying, "my smaller teammate, where he at? Pedroia, he grabbed me by the neck one time, and he told me, 'if you keep on pulling the ball, I'm gonna whoop you.'"
"My teammates were always there for me and that's something I'm always going to appreciate it," he added. "And in life, you have to remember our teammates are a second family. Love you guys forever."
"Wait wait wait, I can't forget about Jason Varitek," Ortiz added of the former Red Sox catcher. "That man is serious. I love you Captain.
Ortiz said it's been almost 20 years since his first day in Boston, and there some incredible memories from his time with the team.
"When I think about Boston, I definitely think about 2004, 2007 and of course 2013," he said.
"After a city was shaken by a Marathon bombing, I have never seen a community bounce back and unite like Boston," Ortiz added of how the city rallied after the Boston Marathon bombings.
"When I think about Boston, I also think about the last game I played standing on the field at Fenway Park, you feel like the whole city of New England, and each one and every one of you is surrounding you and was showing me all your love. I will always be Boston, and I will always be there for you Boston. I love you Boston."
Ortiz finished his speech by talking about the importance of believing in people, and how that can sometimes make all the difference.
"I always try to live my life in a way that support other, that make a positive influence in the world, and if my story can remind you of anything, let it remind you that when you believe in someone, you can change their world, you can change their future, just like so many people who believed in me," Ortiz implored. "To everyone who believed in me from my family to coaches to teammates to fans, know I could not have done this without you. My Hall of Fame plaque represents each one of you, and I'm gonna thank you guys for the rest of my life. Thank you very much and god bless you all.
Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred read Ortiz's plaque at the induction ceremony Sunday. It reads: "Powerhouse left-handed slugger who was at his best in the clutch, with legendary postseason performances that took the Red Sox from championship drought to three World Series titles in 10-year stretch. Eight times named top designated hitter, while earning 10 All-Star selections. Drove in 100-or-more runs in 10 seasons, leading American League three times, his 541 home runs, 632 doubles, and 1,768 RI are all time-high among designated hitters. extra innings walk-off hits in Games 4 and 5 of 2004 A.L.C.S. netted series M.V.P. honors. Set A.L. record for batting average (.688) en route to 2013 World Series M.V.P."
Both the Celtics and Patriots congratulated Ortiz on Sunday now that the legendary DH is enshrined in baseball history.
And there was one more special moment for Ortiz on Sunday, as his daughter Alex -- who is a music producer and vocalist currently studying at the Berklee College of Music in Boston -- sang the National Anthem on stage. What a moment for Ortiz. What a day. What a career.
Congratulations, Big Papi!