BOSTON — David Ortiz is in his final Major League Baseball season at 40 years old, but you wouldn’t know it based on the way he’s already stepped up for the Red Sox.
The designated hitter has played in four of the Red Sox’s first five games, and he’s batting .294 with two doubles, two home runs and five RBIs. None of his teammates are really surprised by the early success.
“That’s David,” third baseman Travis Shaw said before Monday’s home opener against the Baltimore Orioles. “It seems like when the lights are the brightest, he performs the best, so we’ve come to expect that in crucial situations. We don’t want anybody else at the plate besides him. I think he feeds off of this stuff, and he’s proven in his career that when it comes down to crunch time, when everybody’s looking at him, he’ll come through.”
Monday marked Ortiz’s 14th and final Opening Day at Fenway Park in a Red Sox uniform. It was an emotional scene, especially when Ortiz’s daughter sang the national anthem, but manager John Farrell said before the pregame ceremonies that the nine-time All-Star has been the same old Big Papi throughout most of the retirement talk to this point.
“His only emotion that we’ve seen is a laugh, a congratulatory high-five when someone else does something well,” Farrell said. “Nothing has changed as far as David’s approach to the game and certainly the way he’s swinging the bat. No evidence of him slowing down. I’m sure there’ll be a special moment (Monday) to recognize him, but we’re seeing a guy getting off to a very good start.”
As for the rest of the season, there’s expected to be a lot of fanfare around Ortiz. He’ll probably receive gifts and recognition every time he visits another stadium for the last time. But Farrell doesn’t think it’ll be too different from how the slugger normally is received.
“There may be (ceremonies), but I think any time we deal with David, there’s always a buzz around David,” Farrell said. “He hasn’t changed his routine, and I think guys just got to take what we’re going to experience in stride. And I would hope that we wouldn’t be distracted by any celebrations or recognition for David.”
Thumbnail photo via Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports Images