The Providence Journal, April 13, 2015
The most important player of the Boston Red Sox Epoch that has produced three World Series Championships is David Ortiz, a man from the Dominican Republic who speaks English as a second language, and grew up surrounded by Third World Caribbean poverty, eating mofungo (a fried plantain-based dish).
Now in the twilight of his playing career, Ortiz is the one still standing. Long gone and burned out by money and ego are Johnny Damon, Curt Schilling, Terry Francona, Manny Ramirez, Jonathan Papelbon, Theo Epstein, Jon Lester and many others.
"Big Papi" is more than the face of the franchise. In the land of Ralph Waldo Emerson and John Updike, he became the voice and conscience of the Red Sox. The de facto spokesman. With broken English, he has bested the most literate, articulate and insufferable sports journalists in the country. He survived the Boston press corps, and his own all-too-human missteps, to become the embodiment of what the team wants to be going forward in the future.
Big Papi is the blueprint for success of the Red Sox.
Ortiz has paved the way for Spanish first Rusney Castillo, Yoan Mocada, Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, Xander Bogaerts, Christian Vasquez, Edward Mujiica, Alexi Ogando, Sandy Leon and others. The new hometown pipelines for Los Red Sox are Santo Domingo, Caracas, Havana and San Juan.
The Big Papi blueprint is a secret-sauce combination of Latin talent, humility and blissful ignorance of a very particular New England English language scrutiny. What’s that you say, bro? Yes, they make millions of dollars, but from Ted Williams to Carl Yastrzemski to Nomar Garciaparra they have all wilted in the unbearable fishbowl of Fenway Park.
Even still, Ortiz has had to fight off — or is it ignore? -- the derision of many this spring who say that he will never get into the Hall of Fame despite all the home runs, clutch hits, championships and kind words. But he will. The rules are different for Big Papi, and for good reason. He’s come farther. He speaks from the heart. We know what he means. Perhaps most importantly, he lets it all roll off his back so he’s loose at the plate and on the field when it counts.
Red Sox Nation will soon have more Spanish-speaking fans then they do English-speaking fans. On Opening Day 2015, half of the Medias Rojas roster was born outside the Continental United States, and speak English as a second language.
Red Sox beisbol is still America’s game in the sense that it reflects the engagement of the United States in all economic hemispheres of the globe. For the Red Sox, success breeds Spanish-speaking fans and Japanese-speaking fans, in addition to obnoxious English-yelling fans!
Red Sox ownership of a once provincial and proud Boston baseball team has grown with Ortiz to become one of the premier international sports businesses in the world, the multi-billion dollar Fenway Sports Group, with interests in European soccer, a professional NASCAR racing team and connected media properties.
At the nadir of the murderous Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, it was Big Papi who spoke for the city, in broken English. The profanity was perfect. We knew what he meant. His confidence and success, along with that of the Patriots, Celtics, Bruins and many significant businesses in New England, have culminated in a renaissance of Boston, and a step further onto the world’s stage to try to host the Summer Olympics in 2024.
So far, in the 21st century, Boston is the American City of Champions, with nine titles including the most recent Super Bowl, radiating out to all corners of the world. There are many heroes, both on the field and off.
If the Olympic torch ever makes it down Widett Circle to a Boston Olympic Stadium, David, middle name Americo, Ortiz can surely carry it.
Chip Benson, of Wellesley, Mass., is an occasional contributor.