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Dominican icon David Ortiz leaves behind a powerful legacy in Boston

Dominican icon David Ortiz leaves behind a powerful legacy in Boston

Posted by PanamericanWorld on October 11, 2016

After 14 years of calling Fenway Park home, David Ortiz has become as much a part of Red Sox history as the legendary Green Monster, nearly as synonymous with New England as a Dunkin’ Donuts on every corner.

Of course, as the season-long sendoff has shown, Ortiz’s impact has stretched far beyond the friendly confines of Fenway.

The Dominican slugger has all but single-handedly defined the designated hitter role for the last decade and a half and become one of the defining faces of his generation’s Latino baseball superstars.

As the Red Sox's season ended in a three-game sweep by the Cleveland Indians Monday night at Fenway, it's clear that what made Ortiz so beloved in the city of Boston is that he transcended the game. Well, that and the fact that he helped win them three World Series titles.

He is a laughable, loveable character who possessed superstar charisma in addition to top-tier talent. He took the game, but not himself, seriously. He established himself as a leader in the clubhouse. He got involved in the community, earning recognition in the form of baseball’s Roberto Clemente Award in 2011.

In a game defined by ever-revolving rosters, “Big Papi” was the constant in the Red Sox clubhouse and the face of the franchise. Boston’s adopted son just happened to roll his "Rs” instead of dropping them.

For proof of his local appeal, one needs to look no further than April 20, 2013, when Ortiz addressed the crowd at Fenway just days after and blocks away from the site of the Boston Marathon bombings.

In a city still reeling from the attack, Ortiz took the mike. The speech, in which Ortiz declared, “This is our f---ing city,” became a rallying cry. Once again, he stepped up and delivered when Boston needed it most.

Given the legend Ortiz has become in New England, it’s easy to forget that it wasn’t always that way.

David Ortiz Arias was signed by the Seattle Mariners out of the Dominican Republic in 1992 and came up through the Mariners’ farm system as David Arias.

In 1996, he was traded to Minnesota, where he not only made his rookie debut, but, at some point, educated his new team about Hispanic naming conventions and was thenceforth correctly known by Ortiz.

He spent the first six seasons of his big-league career bouncing between the Twins and their minor league system. Until Minnesota released him outright in the winter of 2002, that is. They simply didn’t see a place for Ortiz in their lineup or their future.

Fortunately, the Red Sox did.

Urged by fellow Dominican and now Hall-of-Famer Pedro Martínez, the team signed the player who would become known as Big Papi. And that’s when everything started to change – both for Ortiz and for Boston.

Ortiz had a breakout year in 2003, with 31 home runs and 101 runs batted in, finishing fifth in the MVP voting. That same year, the long-suffering Red Sox, who had not won a world series since 1918, came within an inning of the Fall Classic before suffering an epic collapse against the New York Yankees.

Big Papi, however, proved capable of coming through in the clutch. While the Red Sox Nation mourned what might have been, it was clear something had shifted in Boston.

Ortiz earned his first outstanding designated hitter award that year. He would go on to earn the honor seven times. By comparison, Edgar Martínez, after whom the award is named, won the designated hitter award only five times.

In 2004, Ortiz forever secured his place in Boston history and fans’ hearts. In his first All-Star season, Ortiz hit 41 home runs and had 139 RBIs – but what mattered most was that he led the Red Sox back from a three-game deficit against the Yankees in a seven-game American League Champions Series (of which Ortiz was named MVP) and helped the team to its first World Series title in 86 years.

It took Big Papi to break the Bambino’s Curse, and, three years later, Ortiz was an integral part of bringing the title back to Boston again. And then again in 2013.

As with any story, Ortiz’s isn’t without controversy. In 2009, word leaked out that he had failed a drug test in 2003 – before Major League Baseball’s current testing program was fully in effect.

Ortiz has always maintained that he never took steroids, that the test must have been caused by a tainted over-the-counter product. In an era during which supplements were both rampant and ill-regulated, it is certainly within the realm of possibility.

Given that he has never tested positive again despite many drug tests, it seems myopic to see that as a career-defining moment. But for some critics, one questionable test is all it takes to discredit an athlete’s entire legacy.

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