Monday is going to feel weird.
It’s Opening Day for the Red Sox. They host the Pittsburgh Pirates. The temperature will be in the mid-40s. Pregame ceremonies at Fenway Park will be business as usual. And when the first pitch is thrown by Rick Porcello at approximately 2:05 p.m., baseball season will have officially begun.
Something won’t feel right though. There will be something missing. And in the bottom of the first inning, it will hit us like a ton of bricks.
David Ortiz will not be there.
Perhaps he’ll make an appearance at the ball park or be in attendance in some capacity. But he won’t be where we’re used to seeing him, and ultimately, where we all want him to be.
“Now batting for the Red Sox, the designated hitter, number 34, David Ortiz.”
Ortiz is now retired. His baseball career is over. It’s a day we all knew was coming. He announced it the previous offseason, sparking his “Farewell Tour” in 2016. But as much as we celebrated his final year and said our goodbyes the only way we know how, it’s not something that has truly hit home just yet.
That will all change on Monday afternoon.
You’ll see Dustin Pedroia. You’ll see Mookie Betts. You’ll see Hanley Ramirez. But Big Papi won’t be there to drive them in. Ortiz won’t be there to stare down the opposing pitcher as he takes his time strutting to the plate from the on-deck circle. We won’t hear his name called, even though we’ll all be expecting to hear it. That will be the moment it hits us. Ortiz is done. And he’s not walking back through that door.
What makes this harsh reality so much more devastating is the fact that, if Ortiz did walk back through that door, he’d probably hit .310 with 30 home runs and 110 RBI.
He walked away from the game hitting .315 with 38 home runs, 127 RBI, and a Major-League leading OPS of 1.021 in his final season.
Ortiz was my American League MVP in 2016. There wasn’t a single hitter who pitchers feared more than him last year. And you don’t just lose an icon like that and move on like it’s nothing. That goes for both the fans and the organization. Ortiz is a legend. But he’s a legend who can probably still play at a high level, if he really wanted to.
I don’t mean to make it sound like he wasn’t hurting at the age of 40. Because he was. And at that age, a 162-game season is more than just a grind. Especially when you play in 151 of those games at an MVP-caliber level.
I also don’t mean to get too dramatic here. But if championships mean anything to you — and they should — then Ortiz is the greatest Red Sox player who’s ever lived. That’s how I feel, at least. So I’m just trying to prepare you for what I imagine will be a “Oh [bleep], we’re never going to see Big Papi play again” moment.
The mere thought of it hasn’t been fun to talk about. And as much as we all think we’re prepared for life after Ortiz, there’s no way it’s actually hit home yet. That will come on Monday. Opening Day at Fenway. Without him.
It just won’t be the same.
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