The number ten is synonymous with perfection – a symbol of the highest rating you can attain in a performance, a routine, or as an All-Star.
On July 5th, Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz got his 10, being named a starter for the American League for the tenth MLB All-Star Game of his illustrious career.
Ortiz became the 66th player to reach at least 10 All-Star appearances, and he celebrated it as only Big Papi could. On Thursday July 7th, Ortiz tweeted a photo of a tattoo he got, immortalizing the honor on his body forever in red and navy colors, and reaffirming the sad reality that there will not be another All-Star appearance from the beloved Red Sox.
It is only fitting Ortiz is selected to the All-Star Game in his last season, and there’s no doubt that the MLB and baseball fans at Petco Park in San Diego will pay tribute to one of the greatest hitters in baseball – if the fanfare that New York Yankees great Derek Jeter experienced in 2014 is any indication. (Jeter received a standing ovation during his entrance, his first at-bat, and when he was taken off the field in the 4th inning, the RE2PECT in the backdrop of Target Field while he was at the plate, and the commercial Nike aired of athletes tipping their cap in respect for the shortstop).
“I’ve seen some other players in their final season just be part of the All-Star Game – Mariano, Cal Ripken, Ken Griffey,” Ortiz said in an ESPN interview. “It’s something that as a player you’re always going to look at it as, I made it. As many times as I have, it’s something that’s very special and something I’ll never forget about.”
For Ortiz, it’s especially poignant considering that none of this seemed possible during his early career. No one expected Ortiz to be an All-Star, and much less a ten-time All-Star. For six seasons, he was an average hitter for the Minnesota Twins before shipping up to Boston in 2003, where he broke out and had 31 home runs and 101 RBIs for a team that was a step away from reaching the 2003 World Series.
In 2004, he played a big part in the Red Sox exorcising their World Series demons, providing the game-winning hits in two do-or-die games against the Yankees in the American League Championship Series, along with hitting 41 home runs and 139 RBIs during the season. 2004 was also the first time Ortiz was named an All-Star, a precursor of what was to come for the Dominican powerhouse over the next 12 years.
Now, on the cusp of his final All-Star Game, he is having one of his best seasons yet, leading the league in slugging percentage, OPS, doubles and hits at the ripe age of 40. And yet, with his three World Series and American League championships, along with a World Series MVP, Ortiz has been nothing but an All-Star on and off the field.
In April, Ortiz used his flair for the dramatic for a good cause, promising a six year-old fan named Maverick – who suffers from a life-threatening heart defect – that he’d hit a home run for him. Hitting a home run is hard in and of itself, but hitting one in the bottom of the eighth of a tied game against the Yankees is something an average pelotero can’t even fathom.
Not for an All-Star like Big Papi, though. The first pitch Ortiz saw from Dellin Betances was sent over the Green Monster, giving the Red Sox a 4-2 lead and keeping his promise to a little boy who calls Ortiz the greatest Red Sox player ever.
These moments are why Red Sox fans will miss Ortiz. From giving the city its first World Series since 1918, to showing what it means to be Boston Strong after the Boston Marathon bombings, to making a sick boy feel better for a brief moment through baseball, Ortiz embodies what it means to be an All-Star.