In the pantheon of celebrity, the term “megawatt personality” gets tossed about casually, as if entire regions are illuminated by a star’s mere presence.
For David Ortiz, that metaphor applies in two locations: His hometown of Santo Domingo and his adopted city of Boston.
That duality has defined his life since 2003, when he joined the Red Sox and launched a career in Boston that included three World Series titles, nine All-Star appearances and 541 home runs.
Yet for as revered as he is in New England for helping the 2004 Red Sox break an 86-year title drought, he is perhaps even more cherished in the Dominican Republic, where, hours after an assailant shot him in the back while he relaxed at a Santo Domingo nightspot, former president Leonel Fernandez was by his side in the hospital.
“Just think of how big an impact he’s had in the city of Boston – he’s an icon on the Mount Rushmore of Boston athletes. But he is the guy in the Dominican Republic,” Red Sox assistant general manager Eddie Romero, a Puerto Rico native, said at a Monday press conference.
“He’s more famous than any president. You think Dominican Republic, you think Pedro Martinez and David Ortiz. I’ve been awed by the impact he’s had.”
BIG PAPI: MLB impact a true love affair
ORTIZ ASSISTANT: 'No doubt' attack was by a hitman
PEDRO: Former teammate breaks down talking about Ortiz
Monday night, Ortiz once again made the trip from his island homeland to Boston, though this was like no previous journey.
As he was transported out of Abel Gonzalez Clinic to an ambulance, white sheets obscured his path down a hallway to keep well-wishers and news media at bay. He was loaded onto an air ambulance sent by the Red Sox and transported to Boston, where a police escort awaited at the airport.
As the motorcade approached Massachusetts General Hospital, another throng of news media and well-wishers awaited, seeing him through to the site of his recuperation.
The transport was in some ways symbolic. Ortiz, who retired after the 2016 season, now resides in Miami with wife Tiffany and two of their three children. But he made his legacy in Boston. Ortiz met his future wife while playing for the Class A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers in 1996; she turned him into a Green Bay Packers fan while Tom Brady was just a freshman at Michigan.
David Ortiz salutes the fans at Fenway Park. (Photo: Bob DeChiara, USA TODAY Sports)
In 2008, Ortiz became an American citizen, an oath that sealed his figurehead status in two nations, where he holds myriad interests: Business, philanthropic and personal.
Ortiz was in Santo Domingo last weekend to promote his Big Papi cigar collection and tend to his charitable organizations, according to Dominican journalist Dionisio Soldevila. He has hosted 11 David Ortiz Celebrity Golf Classics, a winter ritual that attracts athletic A-listers and myriad celebrities, from Ray Allen to Adam Jones, Ja Rule and a gaggle of Latin American stars such as Martinez, Manny Ramirez and Dellin Betances.
His charitable foundation provides critical cardiac care to children in need in both the Dominican and Boston, where it partners with Mass General, the hospital where Ortiz is now recuperating.
In 2011, Ortiz earned the highest off-field honor for a major leaguer, the Roberto Clemente Award, named for the Hall of Famer who died in a plane crash delivering supplies to victims of an earthquake in Nicaragua. Major League Baseball cited Ortiz’s work with his foundation and additional outreach in conjunction with Mass General, along with his donation of time and supplies to victims of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
“The hands-on work he has done over the years and the money he has donated in Boston, Haiti and the Dominican Republic is a wonderful example for all players, and I know Roberto would have been very proud of his selection,” Vera Clemente said then of her late husband.
Since his retirement, he’s launched Big Papi Productions, a company whose first venture was a Fusion series, “Big Papi Needs a Job.” Perhaps that’s technically true, but between the production company, his work as a Fox Sports analyst, wine and cigar interests and charitable work, he does not lack for activity.
“It comes from the way he treats people,” says Romero. “He treats everybody the same. I know everybody has been stirred by this incident. It doesn’t surprise me that so many have tried to reach out and help.”
So much remains unresolved in Ortiz’s shooting. Police have refused comment on a possible motive and have arrested one suspect, Eddy Vladimir Feliz Garcia, who they believe pulled up with another man on a motorcycle and carried out the shooting.
The outcome may certainly frame Ortiz’s future. The Dominican will always be home, of course, a place he roamed without security or a detail nor a care about broadcasting his whereabouts. Hours before the shooting, Dominican TV host Jhoel Lopez posted a photo of he and Ortiz on Instagram; Lopez was wounded in the leg in the shooting.
Major League Baseball and its organizations often fret about high-profile players returning to their homelands in the off-season.
In the Dominican, travel can be perilous, and young stars like Oscar Taveras and Yordano Ventura have been killed in winter accidents, with alcohol a significant factor in Taveras’ death. Ortiz’s mother, Angela, was killed in a car accident on Jan. 1, 2002.
“There are measures we try to taking in educating our players,” says Romero. “It’s a problem you encounter in a plot of places with high profile athletes, with money and exposure. There are factors to that that are out of our control.
“We hope that this is an isolated incident in David’s case.”
Source: Read Full Article