COOPERSTONE, NY ( Associated Press) – “Sinner! Puppy!”
With chants echoing in the Plaque Gallery as he entered, David Ortiz felt right at home inside the Hall of Fame.
The dreams of his youth, who grew up in the Dominican Republic, were fulfilled on Monday at the end of the tour to prepare for his joining this summer.
And Big Puppy was clearly touched.
“The party is just beginning,” Ortiz said.
Calling a group of high school bowlers by their surnames also helped.
A big smile wrinkled his face as he sat around, somewhat in awe of the wood carvings of Babe Ruth and Ted Williams.
“Dude, it’s been a long road, you know what I’m talking about. Being in this room, it’s my first time. It gives me goosebumps because as a kid, it was in this room I’m like these people, you look at them and you’re like wow! It’s impossible to (imagine) where I came from,” he said.
“Greatest player to ever play the game. Huge compliment. I still can’t believe it. I still can’t believe it,” he said. “I know I’m going to win championships on the field. And I do whatever it takes to represent Boston. It worked.”
The longtime Red Sox slugger was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association of America in his first attempt in January. A 10-time All-Star in 20 seasons, mostly with Boston, Ortiz was elected on 77.9% of the ballots, just above the 75% threshold required for the election. He is the 58th player selected on the ballot in his first year.
Ortiz, 46, is the fourth Hall of Famer born in the Dominican Republic. He is joined by Juan Marichal, Pedro Martínez and Vladimir Guerrero. Ortiz will be installed on July 24 alongside veteran committee picks Buck O’Neill, Minnie Minoso, Gil Hodges, Tony Oliva, Jim Catt and Bud Fowler.
Ortiz said he first started thinking about Hall of Fame when he reached 400 homers in July 2012.
“Once I hit my 400th, someone had a conversation with me about it and I was like, ‘Hmm. Let me try to take better care of myself, see if I can get there,'” he Said. “That’s when I started paying attention.”
Ortiz, who batted 286 and scored 541 home runs with 1,768 RBIs playing for Boston and Minnesota, made 88% of his plate performances as a designated hitter. This is the most by anyone in the Hall of Fame, surpassing Seattle’s Edgar Martinez, who was the DH for 71.7% of his plate performances.
The 6-foot-3, 230-pounder Ortiz was one of the game’s top clutch hitters, helping the Red Sox to three World Series titles in his 14 seasons with him. And his mile-wide grin earned him adoration from fans far and wide, making him one of the game’s most popular players.
A group of high school players from Easton, Pennsylvania validated the day. After his game rained down coincidentally in the Hall of Fame, he followed him on tour before greeting him and chanting his surname.
As he made his way through the Hall of Fame, Ortiz stopped and watched Ted Williams’ performance and spoke respectfully about the brilliant Splinter’s sacrifices during World War II, when he served in military service from 1943–45. Spent three years in red Sox. Ortiz also swung a bat from Williams and one of Babe in the hall.
This made the day’s impact even more poignant.
“I grew up hard, man. I grew up hard,” Ortiz said. “My childhood was not that easy, but I had great parents to guide me and keep me out of trouble.”
A left-handed hitter, Ortiz was signed by Seattle as a teenager, then traded to Minnesota as a minor leaguer. He made his major league debut in 1997 with the Twins, but there was no sign of a future Hall of Famer. He was released in 2002 and then signed by Boston and his career took off.
Still, those six years with the twins remain on his mind. When he entered the plaque gallery, Ortiz made a beeline for Kirby Puckett’s plaque and took a selfie in front of him.
Puckett, who died of a stroke in 2006, was in the front office in Minnesota and became close friends with Ortiz when he arrived. Ortiz wore the number 34 with the Red Sox in honor of Punkett, who wore the number for the Twins.
When asked about the selfie, Ortiz held his eyes and looked down, being able to respond with only four words to tears in his eyes.
“That was my boy,” he said.
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