A Boston legend returned home Monday and his city welcomed him with arms wide open.
David Ortiz was back at Fenway Park to throw out the first pitch before the Boston Red Sox game against the New York Yankees. It was one of the first times anyone outside of family, friends and doctors had seen him around town since he was shot in the Dominican Republic on June 9.
Wearing flashy sunglasses and a Sox home uniform top, Ortiz fired the first pitch to his former teammate, catcher Jason Varitek.
“First of all, I want to thank God for giving me a second opportunity in my life to be able to be here with all of you,” said Ortiz. “I want to thank the Red Sox, my real family, they have always been there for me, supported [me]. With what happened to me, they were the first supporting me. Thank you very much, Red Sox family.”
It’s been a long road for Big Papi, 43, the victim of what’s now considered to be a case of mistaken identity. He was released from the hospital in late July after undergoing three surgeries.
Ortiz was shot in the back at close range by a gunman who approached his table outside of a club. He was hit in the torso and had his gallbladder and part of his intestine removed in surgery before he could be flown back to Boston. Part of his liver was also damaged.
“I want to thank all of you for all the prayers, all of them came home,” Ortiz said. “I really appreciate it. Thank you very much. I want to thank my former teammates for being there for me. And also, all of them came home to check on their boy. Also, I want to thank the Yankees, a lot of my boys over there came over to check on Big Papi. Thank you very much. I appreciate it. Thank you very much. God bless you all. Go Sox.”
Ortiz was smiling and frankly he didn’t look much different than the last time any of us has seen him. He doesappear to have lost some weight, but he was walking freely without any assistance.
He and his wife watched the game from a box next to the Red Sox dugout, sharing sunflower seeds with Sox manager Alex Cora. He later gave his jersey to a young fan.
“It’s always good to see the big man,” said Cora. “For the fans to see him is awesome. For the players, I always say David is kind of like a rockstar baseball player. That vibe. It’s amazing. I’m glad he was able to come here and hang out with us and see that he’s doing a lot better.”
Obviously, both the Yankees and Red Sox were happy to see Ortiz.
“I think any time you see a brother, a teammate, as someone who means so much to you, in good spirits, I think it’s a positive thing,” Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., told MLB.com. “We’re just glad to know he’s back being who he is.”
Ortiz has been hanging out at his home near Fenway since his release from the hospital, although he did take a trip to France with his wife and Red Sox owner John Henry and his wife.
There was no formal press conference, but you could see him catching up with both Red Sox and Yankees players.
“That was a whole scary scene, what happened with him. I prayed for him throughout that whole process.,” Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge told MLB.com. “To see him go out there, walk on that field and throw a pitch out was fantastic. The city, the fans were going crazy for it. We were, too, all clapping for him. Just happy to see him back. It’s Big Papi.”
Ortiz entered the field from the Red Sox dugout after his introduction by the Red Sox public address announcer:
“Tonight, we welcome one of the most beloved people to ever wear the Red Sox uniform. In fact, he may be one of the most beloved people in the history of this city, his city, our city. Won’t you please welcome the symbol of resilience, strength, triumph and love, our one and only Big Papi, Red Sox Hall of Famer Number 34, David Ortiz.”
It had been a difficult day for the Red Sox. They defending World Series champion was eliminated from the pennant race in the American League East by its 5-0 defeat, which came on the day their president of baseball operations, Dave Dombrowski, was fired.
“Amazing,” said Bradley. “Like he said, he’s very thankful for all the prayers, the doctors. He’s a special one to have and I’m glad to have him close to full strength. I mean, any time you go through something that’s life altering, you’re going to have that greater appreciation knowing that you get another chance. He’s always enjoyed life. I’m sure he’s going to enjoy it even more now.”
Ortiz retired following the 2016 season after belting 541 home runs. His uniform number was retired and the city named a bridge and street outside of Fenway after him.
“The way I see he is right now, I’m very happy for him,” Yankees designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion told the New York Times. “He’s the same David. He plays around, joking around and talking.”