Last night, with one swing, David Ortiz joined a sacred club. He became the 27th player in Major League Baseball history to hit 500 home runs. And he’s still going.
Rare is it nowadays that you see a player who truly loves the game, his team, and the city he represents. In an age where most players readily switch for the highest bidder, and throw their money around, Papi has remained a loyal Bostonian for over ten years, even though many other teams would love to get him. Unlike with many former Sox stars, I’ve never had to worry about saying goodbye to Ortiz; he always declares his love for the franchise and this city, and I believe him. In 2013, when the Marathon bombers were terrorizing Boston, David Ortiz stood up and announced that this was ‘our f***ing city, and that no one would dictate our freedom.’ His powerful persona gave us all hope, and then only a few months later, with a miraculous season and his third World Series win, our city had something to celebrate.
When I saw Papi hit the #499 three-run homer in the 1st last night, I had a feeling that it was his night. And for a moment, I was sad. I hoped that he wouldn’t get his 500th on the road; just like finally winning a World Series at Fenway in 2013, it would have been all the more incredible here at home. But even out of town, the entire city of Boston was there in spirit as he hit that magic number. Boston fans transcend Fenway Park, transcend Boston. We are with the Red Sox on the road and at home, in the terrible seasons and the amazing ones; we are married to our team, and it’s the kind of kooky marriage that is going to last.
I’ve written before about how Fenway Park makes me feel. How the Red Sox make me feel. It is a mixture of magic and nostalgia that is unlike any other. It’s like pulling out my old Little Mermaid VHS tape and watching it at my Cape house, the only place where we still have a VHS player, as if I’m still a little girl, and my life can be anything I want it to be. In their best moments, the Red Sox make you feel like anything is possible.
Papi hitting his 500th is a magnificent milestone, but it is also the beginning of an end that I’ve been dreading. I’ve watched as the players I grew up cheering for got traded or retired, and my childhood has ended along with those team rosters. David Ortiz is the only Red Sox player still playing from our 2004 “Band of Idiots” that reversed the curse. He turns 40 this fall, and even though he’s still an incredible force, I know that he can’t last forever. His former teammates have moved on, and eventually, he will too.
If you are a lover of baseball, especially a Red Sox fan, you know how I’m feeling right now. The bittersweet victory that you know comes before a horrible goodbye. The feeling that something magical has just happened, but with the unknown looming in the near future. I am an emotional person, so most things make me cry. The idea of a Red Sox roster without David Ortiz and his big smile and endearing personality, is almost too much to bear. He is our hitter, our unofficial captain, our city mascot, and our icon.
In one of my favorite movies, Fever Pitch, Jimmy Fallon’s character’s friend gently asks him, “You love the Red Sox, but have the Red Sox ever loved you back?” Many players haven’t. They’ve loved their paychecks, they’ve loved their stardom. But with David Ortiz, there is no question that he loves us back. And we are so grateful for him.
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