When you ask someone to name great baseball players born in the Dominican Republic, you’ll hear the names Sammy Sosa, Pedro Martinez, or Manny Ramirez. Many would not mention David Ortiz, unless they live in the Boston area. Ortiz was one of several players picked up in the 2003 off-season by Red Sox GM Theo Epstein. Ortiz, however, did not immediately make an impact in the Boston line-up. He started the first month playing left bench, as wimpy Jeremy Giambi (brother of Jason, and we now know which brother has the hitting ability in the family). Over the course of the season, Ortiz joined the other acquisitions made by Theo Epstein as important pieces in the Red Sox Organization.
David Americo Ortiz was born on November 18, 1975 in Santo Domingo. His major league baseball experience started in 1997, when he signed with the Minnesota Twins. In the land of 1,000 lakes, Ortiz played first base and put up some mediocre numbers. While his numbers weren’t spectacular, he did improve every year. His power numbers, home runs, RBI and extra base hits, continued to go up during his five seasons with the Twins. On December 16, 2002, David Ortiz was released from the Twins organization.
At about this same time, Theo Epstein was busy trying to figure out how to improve the Boston Red Sox. He made several moves, both in the off-season and in the beginning of the regular season that raised some eyebrows. Many wondered what all the fuss about Kevin Millar was about, and almost all were ready to grab the pitchforks and torches when Shea Hillenbrand was traded away. David Ortiz was lost in the shuffle until he started DHing regularly. Batting 5th in the Boston lineup behind Manny Ramirez proved to be a great managerial maneuver. Ramirez lead the American League in intentional walks, and with Nomar (usually batting 3rd, right infront of Ramirez) and Manny’s high batting average (both hit over .300 for the season), Ortiz was able to have a stand out season in 2003. He had his best year in the majors, hitting 31 home runs, 101 RBI, a respectable .288 batting average and 39 doubles. His numbers helped the Red Sox set a team record for homers in a season as well as the MLB record for extra base hits in a season with 648.
Sox fans are hoping that David Ortiz can continue his hitting trend in the post season. Previous post season success has not followed Ortiz in Minnesota. In 9 post season games last year, Ortiz had no home runs and only 4 RBI. The twins ended up losing to the Anaheim Angels in the Championship Series that year as Anaheim Cindarella'd there way to the World Series. However this year, the Sox have a strong enough team (except for their eternally craptacular bullpen) to, dare I say, go further than that.
The 2003 Boston Red Sox’s 10th man award, an award given to the Red Sox player that’s gone above and beyond expectations for the season was a very tough decision. Bill Mueller, Kevin Millar, and David Ortiz were great surprises this season. Manny, Pedro, Nomah, and Jason Varitek all had another great year. While many fans leaned towards David Ortiz to win, as he had an amazing habit of coming up with some really clutch hits, Bill Mueller ended up winning the award, which is understandable as no one expected Mueller to win the batting title this year, as he did with a .326 batting average.
All in all, David Ortiz is a house. While he looks like a giant, shaven, ewok, Ortiz hits like a Mo Vaughn who can hustle. He has found his niche as the Red Sox designated hitter and I’m looking forward to having him around for a couple more seasons. He not only provides a great bat at the plate, but he’s also a happy-go-lucky guy, usually found smiling or joking around on the bench at ballgames. I just hope he can keep hitting like he has been in the post-season. If he does, as well as the rest of Beantown’s finest, then this post season will be a very good time.