BOSTON (CBS) — For a moment, it looked like David Ortiz might have one more magic moment in him. Everyone inside Fenway Park — and everyone in the baseball world — knew that Monday night’s ALDS Game 3 had the chance to be the final game of Ortiz’s career, but when he strode to the plate representing the tying run in the bottom of the eighth with two outs, there appeared to be a glimmer of hope that his career would live to see another day.
Alas, facing closer Cody Allen, Ortiz never got a pitch to hit. He was walked on four pitches, and the excited sold-out crowd grew suddenly quiet. Ortiz made sure to rile them up, helping to rouse the 37,000 fans in attendance. And after Hanley Ramirez lined a single into left field, manager John Farrell had no choice but to call for a pinch runner of Ortiz.
The legendary designated hitter gave a word of advice to pinch runner Marco Hernandez before trotting to the dugout, saluting the crowd as he does.
The fans — and certainly the Red Sox themselves — were hopeful that this would not be Ortiz’s final moment on the field in Boston. Yet that tying run never did cross the plate, bringing the Red Sox’ season to a sudden end.
But the crowd was not deterred, as the fans who remained in attendance after the final out could be heard chanting, “Papi! Papi!” just moments after Travis Shaw flew out to end the game.
And after taking a few moments to gather himself in the Red Sox clubhouse, David Ortiz climbed the dugout steps one last time to say goodbye.
Ortiz stood near the dugout and doffed his cap to the crowd before making his way to the mound and extending his hat high for more than a full minute. He might have been prepared to speak to the crowd, but at a certain point, he lost control of his emotions and let some tear stream down his face.
“It kind of hit me a little bit, not going to lie to you,” he said later in his postgame press conference. “I try to hold my emotions as much as I can, but that last second, I couldn’t hold it no more.”
Surrounded by an entire camera crew, Ortiz then made his way off the field for the very last time as an active member of the Boston Red Sox.
Later, after taking time to reflect, Ortiz gave his own thanks to the fans.
“The game, the game that I love, the game that made me be who I am, the game that I look forward to get better every day, is something that I’m definitely going to carry it the rest of my life. Those moments, they’re always going to be special. They’re always going to stay with you,” Ortiz said. “What made me happy and proud about walking home the way I am right now is that as long as I played in front of these fans, I never took anything for granted. I gave everything I happened to do something special while I played, and the fans respect that. The fans love that. The fans, they live through it. And that’s all that matters to me. And everywhere I go, everywhere I bump into our fans, it doesn’t matter if you bump into two of them or you bump into a thousand of them – they show the same love. That’s why I got better. That’s what gave me the opportunity to give me the career I had.”
The 40-year-old Ortiz said that he himself became just another fan once he had been taken out of the game.
“I was cheering so bad once I got out of the game,” he said. “I was screaming at my teammates, ‘Put me back in it! Make me wear this uniform one more day.’ Because I wasn’t ready to be over for the playoffs.”
Cleveland manager Terry Francona — who managed Ortiz from 2004 through 2011 — opened his own press conference by talking about Ortiz.
“That was an honor to be on the field for his last game,” Francona said. “I think you can see by the way the fans reacted, their outpouring of affection for him, that was an honor.”
Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz, who took the loss on this night, said the feeling in the clubhouse was even worse than normal, considering it meant the end of Ortiz’s career.
“I’ve been around teams that have lost in a playoff series and everything, but it didn’t feel as bad as this one, just for him in general,” Buchholz said. “It’s a tough one to swallow.”
Dustin Pedroia — a teammate since 2006 — reflected on not being able to send Ortiz off with a World Series victory.
“We all love David. He’s family to us. He’s helped us in so many different ways. It’s difficult. We wanted to win the World Series with him and send him out the way we all wanted to, but it didn’t happen,” Pedroia said. “We’ve been through everything together, and, you know, it’s going to be tough not having him around.”
Ortiz did say that he took a little extra time driving around the ballpark prior to getting to work on Monday.
“For the first time, I drove around Fenway. I did a lap of Fenway in my car. Because you know what? A couple of days ago, somebody asked me if I ever thought about if it could be my last game, and I wasn’t thinking about it, but it kind of stayed in my head, because it’s reality. It’s something that it could happen,” Ortiz said. “So I kind of drove around, did a lap of Fenway today, and I kind of viewed things from different perspectives. I kind of realized that, when that person asked me the other day. But like I say, I can’t ask God for no more than what he has given me. I’m a guy that I came out of the Dominican one day, and I was 17 years old, and all I wanted to do was have fun at what I do. Because you kind of walk into this career, there’s a lot of expectations but you don’t know any of them when you are that age. And then through my career, I saw a lot of things happen. I saw a lot of guys being lost in their life – not just their career or their futures in general. Their life. Because this is everything that they had, and they never made it, and seeing those things, I always have been a guy that my mind and my eyes, I always used them at their best. And everything that I saw that cut them short to not make it in their career, I kind of played it out like it was myself.
“The experience, the getting to know things, viewing things from the outside, keep my feet on the ground and trying to learn through the process and not taking anything for granted to try to give me a 20-year career. So that one kid that was expecting just to have fun, here it is 23 years later, you know, having a career and walking home the way not too many of us get to get it done. So the memories and all the things that I can share with you guys, you guys already know most of them. I’m happy and proud of going home the way I am right now.”
Ortiz was asked to reflect on his legacy, and whether becoming an icon was ever something he dreamed of in his younger days.
“No clue about it,” he said. “When you are that young, you don’t think about any of that. You just live in the moments. But the one thing that I can tell you is that my parents, they did their best with myself. They raised me the right way, and everything I am and everything I have besides God, I thank them every day for being hard on me, the right way. Being responsible, showing my responsibility, showing me what matters, showing me the important things about life. And what I learned, that’s what I put in play. Because like I say, I wasn’t a five-tool player. I wasn’t. I saw a lot of guys playing the game by me, I used to look at them and I was like, ‘Man, I’ve got no chance.’
“Really, I played with so many great players that I used to tell myself, ‘There’s no way I can be that good.’ But most of them didn’t have what I had: my mind-set. My mentality. The way I grab knowledge from things. Those 10 seconds to slow down and look at things from different views. And I think that’s one of the best things, that’s one of the best talents that God can give to any human. And I feel like I’ve been blessed with the one tool that got me a 20-year career. And the rest is history.”