In the long history of the Boston Red Sox, not many players transcended borders and languages like David Ortiz. His personality, dedication, skill, and charisma made all of New England fall in love with him. “Big Papi” became a world-renowned figure and one of baseball’s greatest ambassadors in many corners of the globe, and he wrote his name in gold letters in the East Coast professional sports marquee next to athletes such as Tom Brady, Bill Russell, and Larry Bird.
Big Papi’s career was defined by thousands of key moments on and off the diamond, but that probably wouldn’t have happened in Boston if it weren’t for Larry Lucchino-the Worcester Red Sox’ Principal Owner and Chairman who was formerly the Boston Red Sox’ President/CEO-and Ortiz’s long-time friend and teammate, Pedro Martinez.
The beginning of Ortiz’s career dates back to 1992 when he was signed by the Seattle Mariners. He developed in Minor League Baseball until 1996 when he was traded to the Minnesota Twins, where despite making his debut in Major League Baseball, he experienced ups and downs with the Twins and their Triple-A affiliate. Big Papi’s six seasons with Minnesota were plagued by injuries, but he did manage to blast 58 home runs and drive in 238 runs.
To delve into David Ortiz’s arrival at Fenway Park and the beginning of the friendship between Ortiz and Lucchino, WooSox President Dr. Charles Steinberg recalls the complexity and main actors who influenced Ortiz’s signing with the Red Sox.
“Pedro Martinez is the key to this story. In December 2002, David Ortiz was in a restaurant talking on the phone with Pedro, and with sadness, Ortiz told him that the Twins were not going to extend his contract,” Steinberg said. “‘Excellent’, Pedro replied, and Ortiz immediately complained to his compatriot for his coldness, but Pedro told him it was time for him to join the organization he was supposed to be in, the Boston Red Sox.”
At the time, Lucchino was in the middle of negotiations for a contract extension with Pedro, and during those talks, the pitcher advised Lucchino to sign Ortiz to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training. That way, the risk wasn’t too much but offered significant earning potential.
“Larry knew Pedro was one of the smartest people he’s ever met in the sport, and he also knew Pedro was a future Hall of Famer, so his trust was complete,” Steinberg recalls. In one of…