BOSTON — David Ortiz had 4,328 plate appearances in 1,011 regular-season games at Fenway Park entering Friday, so you’d understand if they all blended in a bit.
But one particular at-bat stands out in Ortiz’s mind, and it’s not confined to Games No. 1 through 162.
When asked Friday to choose his most memorable at-bat ever at Fenway, the Boston Red Sox slugger hesitated only slightly before choosing his answer: His walk-off home run in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS.
“I’ve had a lot of good at-bats here at Fenway. Not gonna lie to you,” Ortiz said in a press conference before Boston’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays. “But I’ve definitely got to go back to 2004, man, those walk-offs. That kind of put us back on track. It gave us the opportunity to go back to New York and finish them off there, and win the World Series that everybody was expecting for the past 86 years at the time.”
As it turns out, Ortiz’s 12th-inning, two-run blast off New York Yankees relief pitcher Paul Quantrill — preceded earlier in the game by Dave Roberts’ now-famous steal — was the result of perfect preparation. To this day, Big Papi remembers the exact pitch Quantrill threw, and that he saw it coming from a mile away.
“That’s the one at-bat that I never forget about,” Ortiz said. “I always look at that at-bat like it was yesterday. When I saw Quantrill coming in, I was like, ‘He’s coming front-door sinker.’ And he threw it to me, and I was ready.”
That Ortiz was so prepared for such a high-stakes situation is a big reason why he’s one of the greatest hitters in Red Sox history. His sharp mind also is a reason why he’s having such a successful final season at 40 years old.
“Your mindset — when it comes down to his game, you can’t just play this game with an empty mind,” Ortiz added. “The only advantage we have as players is those two seconds to think about things before they happen. After that, you’re on your own.
“If your mind is not in it, whoever is watching from the outside, you can tell. Me, I can tell most of the time when a player wasn’t ready for whatever happened.”
Thumbnail photo via Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports Images