Friday, September 22, 2006

Big Papi Hits A Homerun – But Not The Kind You Were Expecting!

I was at Fenway Park last night when David Ortiz rewrote the history books. After his two majestic blasts had arced their way into the cool New England night and settled back to earth among the exultant denizens of the Centerfield Bleachers, Big Papi stood alone as the slugger to have hit the most homeruns in a single season in the long history of Red Sox baseball. He had swatted Johan Santana’s first pitch to him in the 1st inning to surpass Jimmy Foxx - old “Double X" – as “51” flashed on the scoreboard and the fans erupted in frenzied celebration. Homerun #52 came a few innings later in his last at bat and was the icing on the cake for this Ortiz Lovefest. Many in the crowd were clutching bumper stickers that proclaimed: “It’s Not Over Until Big Papi Swings”!

But the new Red Sox homerun record is not the focus of this article. I am more interested in the man's big heart than I am in his big bat. David Ortiz the major league hitter is a phenomenon; David Ortiz the human being is a rare gem.

Earlier this week, the Red Sox issued a press release that included the following information:

BOSTON -- Red Sox slugger David Ortiz will take photos with fans before tomorrow night's game at Fenway Park in exchange for a donation of $100 to raise funds for a particular patient's care at Children's Hospital Boston.
Fans with tickets to the game can meet Ortiz and have their photo taken at Autograph Alley inside Gate A from 5:30-6:00 p.m. on a first-come, first served basis. Ortiz will not be signing autographs.

All of the proceeds will go directly to the Alisha Fund at Children's Hospital to pay for the unusual care needed by a little girl.

"David came to us with this initiative that touched his remarkable heart," said Dr. Charles A. Steinberg, the club's Executive Vice President for Public Affairs. "How fortunate are we to have players who feel such compassion and commitment. We are honored to help him with this effort."

(The entire press release can be found through this link:)

Now, let me share with you the rest of the story – or as much of the story as I can relate without sacrificing confidentiality. A few weeks ago, before a game, Oritz had a chance encounter on the field with a former Red Sox player, who will remain anonymous. This former player toiled for the Red Sox long before the era of multi-million dollar contracts. The former player related to David that he has a granddaughter who is being treated at Boston Children’s Hospital for a very rare condition. As the conversation ended, Ortiz turned to a Red Sox employee and quietly said: “Get me the contact information for this family.”

Things moved quickly, and Ortiz made the Red Sox aware that he would like to set up a fund-raising event that would guarantee payment for a full year of treatment for “Alisha” at Children’s Hospital. So, last Wednesday evening, during the time when Ortiz would normally be in the clubhouse preparing for the game, fans lined up to contribute $100 to the Alisha Fund and to have their pictures taken with Big Papi.

It is my understanding that a similar opportunity will be offered next Wednesday before the Red Sox play Tampa Bay. My advice is to show up when the gates open around 5:00-5:15 and head immediately to Autograph Alley – located just inside the ballpark near Yawkey Way – between Gates A and D, and just behind the area where Luis Tiant has his Cuban sandwich stand. Ortiz will only be available for a half-hour, so it will be a very limited “first come – first served” opportunity.

If you are unable to be at Fenway Park next week and would like to join David Ortiz in helping this family, you can mail a check directly to Boston Children’s Hospital, designating the contribution for “The Alisha Fund.” Or, you can contact me and I will be happy to make David aware of your contribution.

In a day when many athletes make headlines for selfish acts and egocentric statements, it is heartening to know of a superstar who quietly reaches out spontaneously to help those who touch his heart. It is nice to be able to observe “Big Papi being Big Papi,” and know that it connotes something positive and special - both on and off the field.


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