BOSTON — David Ortiz on Monday made his biggest public appearance since being shot on June 9 in his native Dominican Republic. Before the series finale between the Boston Red Sox and Yankees at Fenway Park, Ortiz threw out a ceremonial first pitch to Jason Varitek, his former teammate from the World Series-winning 2004 and 2007 Red Sox teams.
Looking slimmer than before the shooting and multiple subsequent operations, Ortiz, 43, received a standing ovation and then delivered a 65-second speech that drew several rounds of applause from the crowd.
“I want to thank God for giving me a second opportunity in my life to be here with all of you,” Ortiz said. “I want to thank the Red Sox, my real family — they’ve always been there for me, supporting me. They were aware of what happened with me and they were the first ones there supporting me. Thank you very much Red Sox fam. I want to thank all of you for all the prayers. All of them came home. I really appreciate it. Thank you very much.”
Ortiz shouted out multiple former teammates and opponents who had visited him as he recovered.
“All of them came home to check up on this boy,” he said of his former teammates. “Also, I want to thank the Yankees. A lot of my boys over there came to check up on Big Papi. Thank you very much, I appreciate it. C.C., Encarnacion, all y’all. Thank you very much. God bless you all. Go Sox.”
Ortiz, who retired after the 2016 season, was referring to Yankees pitcher C. C. Sabathia and first baseman Edwin Encarnacion, both of whom got to know Ortiz after many years as opponents.
Sabathia and others visited Ortiz in late July when the Yankees were in Boston playing the Red Sox. Encarnacion, also a Dominican native, visited Ortiz at his Boston home on Thursday. He said he spent nearly four hours with Ortiz along with Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez, who has credited Ortiz with giving him advice during a rough 2018 season.
“The way I see he is right now, I’m very happy for him,” Encarnacion said. “He’s the same David. He plays around, joking around and talking.”
After the shooting, which occurred at the Dial Bar and Lounge, a regular hangout of Ortiz’s in the eastern part of Santo Domingo, he underwent emergency surgery to remove his gallbladder and a part of his intestines. His liver was also damaged.
He was transported to Boston in an air ambulance provided by the Red Sox, and he had two more operations at Massachusetts General and spent a month and a half at the hospital.
Dominican Republic authorities have said Ortiz’s shooting was a case of mistaken identity. That claim was met with much skepticism in the Caribbean nation, as Ortiz is one of the most recognizable figures there.
In recent weeks, Ortiz has made several public appearances after regaining stamina. He dropped his daughter off at college. He went to a vineyard in France with his wife, Tiffany, and John Henry, a Red Sox owner, and his wife. He sat next to the Red Sox dugout on Monday night, chatting occasionally with Manager Alex Cora and coaches during the game.
Ortiz’s big bat and big personality earned him much affection in Boston and in the Dominican Republic over a 20-year major league career. A left-handed slugger, he spent 14 seasons with the Red Sox, where he was a 10-time All-Star and three-time World Series champion. He helped the Red Sox win the 2004 World Series, their first since 1918, and became an outspoken voice for the city after the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013.
James Wagner has covered baseball — the Mets for two and a half years and now the Yankees — for The New York Times since June 2016. Previously he worked at The Washington Post for six years, including four covering the Nationals. @ByJamesWagner • Facebook
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