BOSTON (CBS) — It has been just over three months since David Ortiz was shot in the Dominican Republic, which left the Red Sox legend fighting for his life. It has been a long road to recovery for Ortiz, but one that has taught him many life lessons along the way.
Sitting down with reporters inside Fenway Park on Monday, Ortiz looked like he was back to being “Big Papi” — the jovial slugger who could have reporters rolling with laughter in an instant. While there were certainly moments of laughter on Monday (occasionally at the expense of WBZ-TV’s Dan Roche), this was a much more serious topic than what we’re used to hearing Ortiz speak about.
Ortiz is truly grateful for what he calls “a second chance to live my life.” Ortiz said he is about 90 percent in his recovery, and is even “crushing food” again, something he wasn’t able to do for weeks after the shooting.
However, Ortiz admits that his life will never be the same.
“It was crazy because, you go from spending a whole day with your kids in a facility where your kids are having fun, and all of a sudden you’re in a hospital, not knowing what is going to end up happening to you. You learn that your life can change in seconds, not only yours – your life and the people around you,” Ortiz said Monday.
The night of the shooting is still crystal clear for Ortiz. He had no trouble recalling the events of June 9, when a gunman came up from behind him and shot him in the back as he sat with a friend at the Dial Bar and Lounge in Santo Domingo.
“The first five seconds, I thought I was in the middle of a nightmare, and then the next five seconds I realized it was real. It happened so fast,” Ortiz recalls. “This guy – I call him my angel – he picked me up and took me to the hospital. I was conscious the whole time and I basically told him where to take me. Man, this guy was just flying on the highway to get there.
“Once I got to the hospital, everything happened pretty quick. I remember telling the doctor before they put me to sleep, ‘Don’t let me die. I have kids and I want to be with them.’ That’s all I worried about, was my kids,” he said. “The next day, I was just happy to be alive.”
Authorities in the Dominican ruled that the shooting was a case of mistaken identity. Ortiz respects those findings and isn’t questioning them, but he’s also hired his own team of investigators, just to make sure they draw the same conclusion.
“I respect that; they’re the ones who go through the details and investigation. But I’m only one David Ortiz, only one life. I can’t really go to the pharmacy and buy another one,” he said. “I have to be able to make sure it wasn’t directed to me, because I don’t do things to deserve anything like that. I pretty much hired my own group to get together with them and go through all the details. I respect what they came out with, but I’d like to know if there’s something else.”
Ortiz was upset at a lot of misinformation that got spread surrounding the motive behind the shooting, but says that is common in the Dominican.
“There is media back home that has zero credibility, but they like to have followers and likes,” he said. “The only way they feel like they can do that is building up all this gossip out there that gets people’s attention. But we’ve been able to control that and tell people what really happened, so they understand and go from there.”
Ortiz is not sure why anyone would want to make an attempt on his life, especially in his home country. The shooting is not going to keep him from returning home, but it has completely changed his perspective on life. Ortiz is now going to be much more cautious anywhere he goes.
“Once something like this happens to you, in your mind, you know that there are bad people out there. That wasn’t the way I used to see things. Now, I guess, when I’m down there, Ill have to have my security. I never did it because I never thought anyone would do anything like that to me,” he said. “But you learn. I was sitting on the street with my back to the street, when you do things like that, you know that you don’t have problems with anyone. If you had a problem with someone, you would never put your back to the street. But it happened to me, and knowing that I didn’t have enemies anywhere, now I’m going to have to be more careful.”
As for how this will change David Ortiz the person, he now has a daily reminder of how precious life truly is.
“You have a scar that, every time you step in front of the mirror, it makes you think about that moment. But at the same time, it tells me how lucky I am. Right now, I’m just trying to enjoy everything in life,” he said. “We act like we deserve everything we have, and we don’t appreciate things we’re supposed to. I spent six weeks not being able to eat or drink any water, and you don’t know the value of it until you face that situation. You appreciate it more – the air, your family, the people around you.
“I always appreciate people, but now I appreciate it even more,” he said. “I always used to love hospitals to go visit sick people and stuff like that. I’m going to be into it even more because now I understand how important that is for a patient. Every time I saw someone walk through that door, it made me happy. It made me feel like ‘you’re the one that is going to walk me out of here.’ I learned a lot of things from this process.”