BOSTON – David Ortiz had been looking forward to this day for a long time. The last time he was in a big league game was Aug. 24, 2012. Battling back from injuries to finally get back in the lineup was going to be important to him. Added to the emotions of the last week and the moving pregame tribute to the victims of the terrorist attacks, the first responders and the citizen heroes who treated them, the law enforcement officers who captured the suspects only made it that much more important.
Ortiz has worn a Red Sox uniform longer than any of his teammates. He makes his home in the Boston area. He and his wife raise their children here.
“This past week, I don’t think there was one human being who wasn’t affected by what we got going on down here,” he said. “This past week for me, myself I was very emotional and angry about the whole situation and got to get that out of my chest and make sure our fans and everyone in the nation knows that this is a great nation and part of it was supporting each other when everything went down.
“Proud and happy to be part of this nation.”
Ortiz capped the emotional pregame ceremony with a stirring exhort to the crowd. The FCC may not have appreciated it, but the crowd seemed to:
“This is our [expletive] city and no one’s going to dictate our freedom. Be strong.”
After the game, a dramatic 4-3 win over the Royals, Ortiz explained his choice of language.
“It just came out,” he said. “If I offended anyone, I apologize. I feel like this is a time to be pumped."
The crowd -- and Ortiz -- would have been even more pumped had Ortiz proven to be the game's hero, and he had his chance. With the Red Sox trailing, 2-1, in the bottom of the eighth, he came to the plate with runners at first and second and no one out. But the Royals, stationed perfectly on defense, turned his hard-hit ball toward the middle into a double play.
It still worked out for the Sox, though, when Mike Napoli walked and Daniel Nava launched a three-run homer into the Red Sox bullpen, providing the winning runs.
"[It's] the way they play me," Ortiz said of the double play. "Shortstop playing behind second base, there’s nothing I can do about it. But then my boy Nava hits the homer, he put everything back into place.”
Ortiz finished the day 2-for-4 with an RBI.
“It’s great having him back,” Nava said. “I think what he does for a lineup, whether he’s hitting, whether he’s not hitting is huge. The presence he has. He puts together good at-bats, which we saw today. Two knocks, get that first run on the board for us. We definitely missed that presence. And there’s a locker-room presence, too, that goes with it
“And the speech, it was from his heart and I think people will definitely appreciate that.”
Ortiz was hitting .318 with a 1.026 OPS when his 2012 season ended after just 90 games, the fewest of his career other than 89 in 2001.
“If he goes 2-for-4 every day with a couple RBI's, it’s a huge impact,” manager John Farrell said. “But I just think his presence in the middle of the order, what he’s meant to the city and this organization for such a period of time. I know this – when he walked in this morning there was another lift in the clubhouse with him being here. And it’s good to be able to write his name in the lineup.”