On Monday, towards the end of the tour to prepare for his initiation this summer, David Ortiz felt perfectly at home with fans chanting his nickname “Big Papi” in the Plaque Gallery as he entered the building.
Ortiz was a 10-time All-Star across 20 seasons, largely with the Boston Red Sox, and was selected on 77.9% of ballots, just beyond the required 75% threshold for election. In his first year on the ballot, he is the 58th player chosen. The Baseball Writers’ Association of America inducted the legendary Red Sox slugger into the Hall of Fame on his first try in January.
The 46-year-old is the fourth Dominican Republic native to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame after Juan Marichal, Pedro Martinez, and Vladimir Guerrero. Ortiz, together with veteran committee selections Buck O’Neil, Minnie Mioso, Gil Hodges, Bud Fowler, Tony Oliva, and Jim Kaat will be inducted on July 24.
“Man, it’s been a long road, you know what I’m saying,” Big Papi said. “Being in this room, it’s my first time ever. It gives me goosebumps because as a kid, it’s like these guys in this room, you look at them and you’re like wow! It’s kind of impossible (to imagine) considering where I come from.”
“The greatest players to ever play the game. It’s a huge compliment. I still can’t believe it. I still can’t believe it. I know on the field I do whatever it takes to win championships and represent Boston. It worked.”
When Ortiz hit 400 home runs in July 2012, he claimed he started thinking about the Hall of Fame.
“Once I hit my 400th, somebody had a conversation with me about it and I was like, ‘Hmm. Let me try to take care of myself better, see if I can get there,’ ” he said. “That’s when I started paying attention.”
Ortiz hit a total of 541 home runs and 1,768 RBIs for both the Red Sox and the Twins.
In his 14 seasons in Boston, the 6-foot-3, 230-pound former first baseman and designated hitter was one of the game’s best clutch hitters, helping the Red Sox win three World Series titles in 2004, 2007, and 2013.
Ortiz was also named 2013 World Series MVP and brought home seven Silver Slugger Awards.
When asked about his youth, he recalled his hard experience when he was a boy and did not forget his roots.
“I grew up tough, man. I grew up tough,” Ortiz said. “My childhood wasn’t that easy, but I had great parents to guide me and keep me away from trouble.”
In addition to his time with the Red Sox, Ortiz also spent six years in Minnesota. He particularly became close with Kirby Puckett during his time playing for the Twins.
Puckett, who died in 2006, worked for Minnesota’s front office and Ortiz wore No. 34 in honor of Puckett, who wore the same number for the Twins.
Ortiz was visibly emotional when reported asked about his relationship with Puckett and recalled great memories with him.
“That was my guy,” Ortiz said.