Saturday night, prior to the game, we had a rain delay. During that delay, I luckily walked up to a great little Red Sox fan, Sydney Reich, and welcomed her to Fenway. This young girl has such a severe form of cerebral palsy that she cannot talk, nor walk, nor is she able to use her fingers. But this beautiful little girl was patiently waiting for two hours in hopes the game would be played. She was just so utterly excited to be at Fenway Park.
While talking with her father, I asked him who her favorite player was. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a sheet of paper. As he explained, she had learned to type on her mom’s iPhone with her nose and had written a letter of some length.
She had written to David Ortiz. She loves David as so many of us do. Near the end of her letter, she wrote that her dream was to “someday meet [him].” As anyone would have done at that moment, I sought David out. He read the letter, smiled as only he can, grabbed one of his bats and said, “Let’s go find her.”
Some of you who were there that night perhaps saw him near the dugout hugging, talking with and holding this young girl. As he later said, “She was so excited. It was beautiful.”
What’s just as beautiful is that this isn’t an isolated case for David. While many know of the David Ortiz Children’s Fund, unless you’re a part of the Red Sox family, you don’t know what Tiffany and David Ortiz do in this community as well as in the Dominican Republic. He’s a hero to so many and has been a hero for so long that while he has embraced all the interruptions, the requests and the time spent on matters such as these, we in the Red Sox often think we need to protect him. But his heart is so large he will have none of it.
All of us in the organization ask David to do things — and there are a lot of us. After winning two world championships and becoming one of the biggest and most popular stars in the world of sport, David has remained a humble, soft-spoken, gentle giant prepared to do whatever is asked of him as long as it benefits those who are less fortunate.
He created a wine and all of the proceeds were earmarked for charity. When there was a horrific flood in the Dominican, he led the effort at Stop & Shop in New England to raise money for victims. Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez and David were honored by the United Nations Development Programme and the Dominican Ambassador for their flood relief efforts.
David played a central role in our two World Series championships with a warmth and good-naturedness that helped redefine a franchise and a region. His impact and heroics illustrated for all of us that when the chips are down, one man can lift an entire community on his shoulders — not just a baseball team.
He continually gave us glimpses of what we are all capable of. He represented the Boston Red Sox in a way that every owner dreams about. He was always accessible to the media when others were not. He’s been a stand-up guy in every conceivable way for seven years.
But when his name was illegally leaked from a list of players — many of whom (not all) "tested positive" for performance-enhancing drugs – the Boston media (and some members in particular) went after him without hesitation or restraint. Even after David offered an articulate defense of his actions, no member of the media said that perhaps there had been a rush to judgment, or that perhaps their remarks should be reexamined, or that perhaps, given their knowledge of David's character, he should be given the benefit of the doubt.
I stopped writing during that period. And I’ll write about that in my next entry.
Meanwhile, as evidenced by what quietly happened during the rain delay Saturday night, nothing is going to stop David from leading with his heart.