The world is ending.
Make no mistake about it, David Ortiz will retire at the end of the 2016 season and my entire world is crumbling down into dust. Wait it’s worse than dust, my world has crumbled down at an atomic level.
Dramatic? Yes, but bear with me.
Because I don’t care how old (or young) everyone knows I am, I was born in 1993. David Ortiz began his MLB career in 1997 when I was just four years old, a toddler. He was signed by the Sox for the 2003 season, when I was 10 years old. Full disclosure, I don’t remember much of anything before I was nine so for the sake of argument, David Ortiz has pretty much been on the Sox for my entire life (because the crap I can’t remember doesn’t matter).
As a kid there were yearly trips to Fenway with my uncle while I, a youngster, didn’t even know that in the background of all the sights and smells of overpriced hotdogs and beer was the single greatest Designated Hitter of all time. There he was in the 2000s, hitting home runs and building a resume that would break records across the board and we didn’t even know it. I’d give a lot to go back in time to really appreciate those games; to really sit down and study #34, knowing that I was witnessing history in the making, one of the single greatest players in MLB history, a living legend, a city icon play before me.
But I can’t.
All I can do is savor the next 162 games; all we can do is soak in every single second that Ortiz is at the plate. Three or four times a night we will see Big Papi step up to the plate, clap his hands, and swing. If we are lucky we may see him round the bases 30 or even 35 more times, pointing skyward as he crosses home with a smile on his face. We will also see the dark side; we will see the anger, the thrown bats, the broken phones, and the disputes with the scorekeepers but damn it I will savor every single last second I get because this is it.
I was in a coffee shop in Oregon once a couple summers ago and saw an elderly man with a Red Sox cap walk in. You can read the full story here, but basically I asked him if he was a Sox fan, and when he grew up. When he said he grew up in the 40s and worked at Fenway selling peanuts I knew that he had seen Ted Williams play and I just had to ask him what it was like. To know what seeing one of the greatest hitters of all time in the living flesh, as if it could transport me back in time to see the Splendid Splinter myself.
David Ortiz is that kind of player.
When I’m older and a kid sees me with my Sox cap in tow he may ask me, “Hey, you didn’t happen to see David Ortiz play did you? What was it like?”
What was it like?
To see a larger than life figure, to see joy and exuberance matched with raw power and a hint of anger. To see someone who could be all smiles, a gentle giant, be so locked in and fearsome at the plate. To see the opposing pitchers’ knees buckle knowing that if they make one single mistake the ball will be sent 450 feet out of the park. To see life itself come to a stop the moment the pitch was thrown, and then the ball park itself become collectively revived as it is clocked over the fence.
What was it all like?
That is not even close to what it was like to watch David Ortiz play, because there is no way you can pin down what it’s like seeing one of the greatest players of all time work his magic. For the next year we won’t have to put to words, we’ll have the drama play itself out in front of us. But be prepared Red Sox Nation, because come next November all we will have are our memories and words and they will have to do.
So David, thank you and good luck this year. I hope to heck that the Sox can make 2016 worth the trouble and a memorable season to end on.