COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — What would David Ortiz say in his speech? That’s the big question everyone had been asking him for weeks and as his Hall of Fame induction approached, Ortiz knew he had to take it seriously.
When he stepped to the podium Sunday afternoon, the words he delivered were powerful, humble and filled with gratitude.
He thanked his family, the Hall of Fame, the baseball writers who made him the first designated hitter ever voted into Cooperstown on the first ballot.
He thanked the people of the Dominican Republic and the United States, switching back and forth between English and Spanish as he spoke directly to his intended audience.
He thanked his early coaches and managers who had faith in him. He thanked his Hall of Fame classmates Jim Kaat and Tony Oliva, who showed him the ropes as a rookie with the Minnesota Twins, and the late Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett.
“He taught me so much about the game,” Ortiz said of Puckett. “He was so wonderful to me that when I went to Boston, I started wearing his No. 34.”
He thanked the Red Sox, who he said made him the man he is today. He thanked his close friend and fellow Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez, along with all of the other former teammates who meant so much to him with the Twins and Red Sox.
He thanked Grady Little, his first manager when he arrived in Boston, as well as managers Terry Francona and John Farrell. He recounted one particularly impactful moment he had with Little, who pulled him aside after he moved a runner over in his first spring training game with the Red Sox and gave him advice that would change his career.
“He pulled me to the side and said, ‘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,” Ortiz said. “And the rest is history.”
He recounted another time when Dustin Pedroia gave him similar advice in a way only the famously fiery Red Sox second baseman could.
“Pedey got me by the neck one time and said, ‘If you keep pulling the ball, I’m going to whoop you,’” Ortiz said. “And guess what? Big Papi got caught up on fire.”
He thanked Boston, the city that welcomed him with open arms. He thanked Boston for the memories, and for making the 2004, 2007 and 2013 World Series championships so incredible. He praised the city for its resilience, how the community bounced back after being shaken by the Boston Marathon bombings, and for the way it sent him out in his final season in 2016.
“When I think about Boston, I think about the last game I played, standing on the field at Fenway Park, it felt like the whole city, all of New England, every one of you was surrounding me and was showing me all your love,” Ortiz said. “I will always be there for you Boston. I love you.”
Most of all, Ortiz thanked everyone who helped make his Hall of Fame induction possible. He closed by reminding the crowd that if you believe in someone, you can change their life. You can change their future.
“To everyone that believed in me, from my family to coaches to teammates to fans, know I could not have done this without you,” Ortiz said. “My Hall of Fame plaque represents each one of you, and I’m going to thank you guys for the rest of my life."
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