October 27, 2007

THERE'S A BEAR IN THE FENS:

Clutch on the field, beloved off it, either way, Ortiz shines: Teammates like marveling at mix of talent, affability (Joe Mahoney, 10/27/07, Rocky Mountain News)

It took a matter of days for Mike Lowell to realize the magnitude of David Ortiz in Boston, the utter adoration Red Sox fans have for the player they have come to revere as "Big Papi."

"The first week I was with the Red Sox, we went to a Celtics game," said Lowell, who was acquired Nov. 24, 2005, in a trade with Florida, "and it was the world coming to an end when they saw David Ortiz. The parking lot guy. The restaurant guy. The attendant that let us in. And he's nice and cordial and that's what people love about him." [...]

Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield has been there the entire time. He saw Ortiz arrive in 2003 as a free agent after not being tendered a contract by the Minnesota Twins when he became eligible for arbitration. At the time, Ortiz was trying to find his footing in the majors.

"When we first got him from Minnesota, he wasn't 'Big Papi,' " Wakefield said.

"I've seen him evolve into this iconic, lovable teddy bear because of his personality. Not only has he delivered on the field, he's one of the best teammates I've ever met.

"I've played with superstars that they're on their own. He treats himself the way the 25th man on the roster would be - not any better than anybody else." [...]

ESPN analyst Peter Gammons, a native of the Boston area and former longtime Red Sox beat writer for The Boston Globe, said he worked out last winter at the same gym as Ortiz across the street from Fenway Park.

Gammons said he saw a woman approach Ortiz one day with a booklet filled with designs for a clothing line she ran, her hope being Ortiz might invest in her venture.

Most players would automatically refuse to let a conversation like this get started or quickly say it would be something for their agent to evaluate.

Gammons said Ortiz did the latter but not before spending 10 minutes with the woman, looking at all her drawings and telling her how good they are.

When that story was related to Ortiz on Friday in the Red Sox clubhouse, he smiled and said, "That's how it is. You got to keep it that way."

Ortiz and his wife, Tiffany, a teacher from Appleton, Wis., whom he met while playing with the low Single-A Midwest League team there in 1996, and their three children split the offseason between the Dominican Republic, where Ortiz was born, and the Boston area, where he has become very involved in charitable and community causes.

Hence, it's not like Ortiz finishes the season, then leaves Boston and shows up with the Red Sox the next February in Fort Myers, Fla., for spring training.

"He's kind of a larger-than-life guy," Lowell said. "He's 6-4. He's black. He's 240 (pounds). And that's not a knock, but he's a very noticeable guy," Lowell said.

"In Boston all the time, I get, 'Man, you look exactly like the third baseman for the Red Sox.' I say, 'Thank you very much. I take that as a compliment.' David don't ever get, 'You look exactly like David Ortiz.' You see David, you know it's him. There's no mistaking."


He's the favorite player of just about every little kid in New England because of that seeming like a teddy bear bit, but Seth Mnookin's book shows how hilariously profane he is in the locker room, which is a big reason why sportswriters and players love him.


Posted by Orrin Judd at October 27, 2007 8:14 AM
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