Despite announcing that the 2016 season will be his last, Red Sox slugger and fan favorite David Ortiz is in it to win it.
Even if you’re not rooting for the Red Sox, it’s important to catch a game at Major League Baseball’s oldest ballpark because this is a place where legends are born. In 1912, the Red Sox won the first-ever World Series from this field. In 1960, Ted Williams slammed his final at-bat home run, his 521st. Ortiz himself broke the 500 barrier last season.
For fans and viewers, this season is a last chance to see Ortiz in action. “Don’t think that because I’m retiring after this season that I’m not hungry. I’m still hungry,” he commented to MLB.com while at spring training in Fort Myers, Florida.
As he prepared for opening day, we squeezed in a quick chat with the 40-year-old Dominican-American and star DH.
As you head into your final season, what will you savor and remember about Boston the most?
Boston has been very loyal to me. Boston has been a city that has gone along with me and supported me throughout my career. As a baseball player, you have a lot of ups and downs, more than in any other sport, and people can dissect that. But that’s been my strong side—the support I get in Boston.
Of all the big moments in your career, do you have a favorite?
Definitely everything that happened in 2004. [A World Series championship, their first since 1918.]
Who is a typical Red Sox fan?
The typical Red Sox fan is the type of fan that has suffered. Like, I go to a school for fifth and sixth graders, and they know everything that happened in a game in ’94. And I’m like, don’t you guys go to sleep early? And yes they do. But when they get up in the morning the first thing they do is turn on the TV, or their mom and dad has the radio on, and they figure out everything that is going on in the game. They’ve probably watched a couple of innings the night before when they go to sleep, but they finish knowing about the game the following day. I would say the Red Sox is a class at school that they talk about. It’s a tradition. It goes beyond everything. Fanatically people think about the sport. That’s what I sense. That’s why I don’t take anything for granted when I play here every day, because the fans here go beyond. I don’t think there are fans in any other sport like that.
What makes Fenway Park such a unique baseball experience?
History. There’s a beautiful historical majesty going on with Fenway Park. You don’t sense that in many stadiums.
What is it like to play so close to the fans in this ballpark?
Not too many (players) are able to put up with it, but I love it. I’ll go to work and I’m high-fiving kids, saying hi to people. That kind of thing builds my confidence, and I don’t know why. There’s a mystery behind it. When I say hi and see their happiness, at the same time I see their trust in what I’m about to do. It’s crazy.
Some people don't consider clutch to be an actual stat, but you are very famous for your clutch performances. Why have you been so successful in those kinds of situations, and what are you thinking about?
To be honest with you, all I think about is where I come from, where I grew up at, and I think that it could be worse. And that takes a lot of pressure away from me. I’m not going to lie to you—it’s so easy to feel that heat and that pressure. It all depends on how you put up with it.
Beyond baseball, where do you like to go in Boston for a good meal?
There are a lot of places. It all depends on what I feel like eating. I can go to Strega, the one in Little Italy [the North End]. I go to Abe & Louie’s sometimes. I also have become a big fan of a restaurant that me and a couple of my partners own, named Yvonne’s.
Does the possibility of making the Hall of Fame feel more real to you?
I think that what a Hall of Famer needs to do is related to what I have done. That’s the only thing I can control. I’ve been able to put up numbers on the field. Plus, I have been able to be a good citizen off the field. Those are the two things, plus winning championships, that matter most to be in the Hall of Fame.
What do you anticipate in terms of tributes in other cities this year?
What can I tell you? I’m not the kind of person who expects anything from anybody. If it happens, it’s more than welcome. It’s an honor. If someone shows you love, you give them love back. That’s the way I was raised. If that’s the way it goes down, then I really appreciate the fact that they take their time to honor me.