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WORCESTER — David Ortiz has never stepped foot in Polar Park, but he has a vivid memory of his brief time at Triple-A Pawtucket during his now Hall of Fame career.
Ortiz was elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame Tuesday in his first year of eligibility with 77.9 percent of the vote.
The 2013 Red Sox season was a memorable one for numerous reasons, especially for Ortiz. And it started in the minors for Big Papi.
Before his famous “This is our f_ city speech” after the marathon bombing, Ortiz was not with the team. He was rehabbing with the PawSox. In fact, the day following the horror on Boylston Street in Boston, he was sobbing in the home clubhouse at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
He sat there and thought about Martin Richard, the 8-year-old boy from Dorchester, who passed away in the explosion. D’Angelo Ortiz was 8 at the time, and his father couldn’t imagine losing his son at that age. His family was on vacation at the time, and Ortiz admitted later that he broke down when he spoke to his son. Ortiz called it an emotional time in his life, thinking about Martin Richard and the other victims of the tragic events on Marathon Monday.
That emotion was front and center only a few days later.
Ortiz’s famous “This is our f_ city” speech occurred on April 20. It was his first game with the Red Sox that season. Ortiz suffered a season-ending right Achilles injury on Aug. 24, 2012, and started the 2013 season on the disabled list.
“How amazing is it that when he came out onto the field, it was the first time we’d seen him,” WooSox president Dr. Charles Steinberg recalled.
A photo of Ortiz giving that speech hangs on the wall in Steinberg’s suite at Polar Park. It features Ortiz standing on the field at Fenway Park with the microphone in his left hand, and his right fist in the air. In the background, the American flag is draped over the Green Monster. “Boston” is across his chest.
It was an iconic moment for the city of Boston, the Red Sox, their fans and Ortiz. It was one of many Hall of Fame worthy moments for No. 34.
“We couldn’t be more elated,” Steinberg said. “David Ortiz was the real deal in all of our dealings with him. He never let us down. If there was a child who needed a lift, or the speech we all remember, no matter what it was, beyond the heroic exploits on the field, he was as valid a baseball hero as you could imagine.”
During his playing career, while other teammates and friends were being elected to the Hall of Fame, it was a subject Ortiz never wanted to talk about. He opened up a little bit when Pedro Martinez earned his spot in 2015. So it was only fitting that Martinez was with Ortiz when he got the call to the Hall Tuesday.
“I’m so thankful and grateful to be able to be part of this elite group,” Ortiz said Tuesday. “This is something, I’m not going to lie to you, I ever dreamed of.”
Ortiz’s personality and love for the game is bigger than most. He cherished his time on the diamond, even when he spent time in the minors at the start of his career, and later during rehab assignments. He never donned a WooSox uniform, but fans in Worcester appreciate everything he did for Red Sox Nation.
In fact, the WooSox are planning something special for Ortiz this season that could live in perpetuity at Polar Park.
—Contact Joe McDonald at JMcDonald2@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @JoeyMacHockey.
This article originally appeared on Telegram & Gazette: Reaction to Boston Marathon bombing tragedy forever endeared David Ortiz to Red Sox faithful