BOSTON — Making his first public appearance since being shot in June, David Ortiz was welcomed back to Fenway Park Monday night with a standing ovation — including both the Yankees and Red Sox dugouts.
After throwing out the first pitch, Oritz spoke to the crowd, who had gathered for the final meeting of the Red Sox and Yankees this season.
“I want to thank God for giving me a second opportunity to be here with all of you,” he told the crowd. “Thank you very much Red Sox family.
“I want to thank all of you for all the prayers. All of them came home. I want to thank my former teammates for being there for me, also. I want to thank the Yankees, a lot of my boys over there came to check up on Big Papi, I appreciate it. CC (Sabathia), (Edwin) Encarnacion, all y’all man.”
Less than a day after the Red Sox fired their president and head of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski, the appearance of the Red Sox’s beloved former slugger was clearly a way to turn the page on a miserable 2019 season at Fenway.
A three-time World Series champion with the Red Sox,Ortiz was shot in a bar in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic June 9. The initial reports were that he was the target of a hired hit man, but local authorities have later claimed that Ortiz was the victim of mistaken identity. There have been several suspects arrested, but no clear story of the events.
Ortiz underwent three hours of emergency surgery in the Dominican, affecting several of his internal organs. After he was flown by the Red Sox back to Boston where he spent six weeks at Massachusetts General, undergoing two more surgeries and recovering.
Encarnacion and Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez used the off day on Thursday to go visit Ortiz at his home. Sanchez said his fellow Dominican native gave him some good advice last season when he was struggling.
“When I started playing, I had the opportunity to play against him back in 2016, I believe he retired in ‘17. He’s always been very good to me,” Sanchez said Friday. “He has always given me very good advice. Even going back to last year, when I was struggling. I had a rough season last season. There were some spots where he gave me really good advice. That’s the way he’s always been.”
In a 2018 season in which the overwhelming opinion of Yankees fans was that Sanchez should be benched, Oritiz was giving the younger player solid advice.
“He talked about defense. He told me to really focus on defense, because he understood and saw I had the ability to hit,” Sanchez said. “So he gave me a lot of good advice about defense.”