David Americo Ortiz Arias.
Born 11-18-1975, this gentle giant has turned into, if not the most feared hitter in baseball, most certainly the scariest cat east of the Mississippi not named Albert Pujols.
A man who was drafted by the Seattle Mariners shortly after his 17th birthday in 1992, traded to the Twins for Dave Hollins in 1996 (That has got to go down in history as one of the all time looking back bone headed moves ever), then out right released by the Twins in the winter of 2002. PASSED OVER by King George and the Evil Empire, Theo Epstein signed him for $1.25 million for the 2003 season.
Even though he shared time with Jeremy Giambi (yes: that Jeremy Giambi. Looking back, it seems surreal huh?) at first, the big man made his presence known in the clubhouse first, not the field. Early on in 2003, the Sox were not the lovable "Cowboy Up" crew, but an angry mess of egos and attitude. Big Papi helped change the culture with his laugh that lights up a room, his customized hand shakes for every player, and his strange preference for man-hugs over high fives.
Fast forward to October 2004. Down 3 games to none, he hits a walk off bomb to win Game 4 against the Yankees in the ALCS. Game 5? He hits a walk off single to win that game. The rest is history. Oh yeah, his HR totals from 2000-2006 are as follows:
2006 is the year he broke the 50 plus year record of Jimmie Foxx and his all time Red Sox HR record of 50 HR's. The man is like my wife Angie: he keeps looking better with time. But it's not just his baseball numbers that make him the larger than life superstar he is. It's the universal respect from other MLB players. It's the awe he inspires in kids and adults alike. He goes to the Children's Hospitals and talks with these dying kids and gives them a little bit of happiness in their final days. He takes the time and effort to give back to his native Dominican Republic, both in money and effort.
I'm trying to be a hero to my kids, and not let the athletes and stars fill that role for me. Because more often than not, they fail. Miserably. I am more than happy, however, to let Ciera and Rakes look up to the baddest man on the planet.
Guys like Big Papi come along once in a lifetime. Yeah, he ain't perfect. Neither am I. For an athlete, he's close enough.
Here's to the much deserved, late in coming, MVP season in 2007 for David Americo Ortiz Arias.
Here's to Big Papi.