BOSTON – Brock Holt couldn't quite figure out the nickname. He had heard of "Big Papi," but this one stumped him.
Days into his first call up to the Boston Red Sox, the 25-year-old infielder began looking for an answer.
"Everyone was calling him 'Pun,'" said Holt. "I was asking, why do people call him that?"
Holt wanted to get to the bottom of David Ortiz's alternate moniker. During a game against the Mariners in Seattle last month, he posed the question to Daniel Nava.
"He said, 'I think it's because he punishes baseballs,'" Holt recalled.
That day Ortiz smacked a home run. It was all the explanation Holt needed – “I looked back at Nava and said, 'So that's why.' "
The first time Holt was called up by the Red Sox this season, he was assigned a locker along a long wall with the position players. When Jose Iglesias was traded to the Detroit Tigers at the deadline in July, a space opened up just one down from Ortiz.
Holt made it a point to stay within the boundaries of his new locker, trying to be respectful of his veteran teammate's area.
The irony is Ortiz didn't want him to keep his distance – he wanted the second-year Major Leaguer to feel like part of the team.
According to reports, Holt has been demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket to create a roster spot for 20-year-old phenom Xander Bogaerts. But while he was with the big-league club, Holt felt right at home.
"Every day he comes in, says hello to everyone," said Holt. "Everyone knows when he walks into the room, he's loud and has a good personality. I think that makes it more comfortable for everyone to be in here, especially younger guys and new guys. As a newer guy, you kind of feel out of place whenever you get called up so to have a guy like David Ortiz to welcome you and be friendly, it's been great."
Holt took to Ortiz's positive energy and motivating talks. He appreciates the way Ortiz leads by example, taking care of business at the plate (.327 BA, 24 HR, 78 RBIs). The country music fan now even enjoys the rap selections Ortiz played in the clubhouse.
"He cares about everybody," said Holt. "He likes to have fun and keeps it loose in here. … He's the guy we want up in big situations, and he knows that."
Once enigmatic to Holt, the meaning behind Ortiz’s nickname couldn’t be clearer.
“Now every time he’s up I ask why they call him Big Pun, hoping he'll do it again,” he said with a laugh.