‘Papi! Papi!’ David Ortiz Tours Baseball Hall of Fame | Sports News

By JOHN KEKIS, AP sportswriter

COOPERSTOWN, NY (AP) – “Daddy! Father!”

With the chants echoing as he entered the Plaque Gallery, David Ortiz felt immediately at home in the Hall of Fame.

The dreams of his youth in the Dominican Republic wrapped up at the end of the tour on Monday in preparation for his induction this summer.

And Big Daddy was visibly touched.

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“The party is just getting started,” Ortiz said.

Hearing a group of high school ball players shouting his nickname also helped.

A wide smile creased his face as he sat in awe of his surroundings, wood carvings of Babe Ruth and Ted Williams directly to his right.

“Man it’s been a long road, you know what I’m saying. This is my first time in this room. I get goosebumps because as a kid it’s like these guys in this room, you look at them and you’re like, wow! It’s kind of impossible (imaginable) considering where I’m from,” he said.

“The greatest players to ever play this game. It’s a huge compliment. I still can not believe it. I still can’t believe it,” he said. “I know I’ll do anything on the field to win championships and represent Boston. It worked.”

The longtime Red Sox bat was inducted into the Baseball Writers’ Association of America Hall of Fame on his first try in January. A 10-time All-Star in 20 seasons, mostly with Boston, Ortiz was elected in 77.9% of the ballots, just above the 75% threshold required for election. He is the 58th player to be selected on the ballot in his freshman year.

Ortiz, 46, is the fourth Dominican-born Hall of Famer. He joins Juan Marichal, Pedro Martinez and Vladimir Guerrero. Ortiz will be anchored on July 24 along with Buck O’Neil, Minnie Miñoso, Gil Hodges, Tony Oliva, Jim Kaat and Bud Fowler, who were selected by the Veterans Committee.

Ortiz said he first thought about the Hall of Fame when he hit 400 home runs in July 2012.

“When I hit my 400th someone had a conversation with me about it and I was like, ‘Hmm. Let me try to take better care of myself, see if I can do it,'” he said. “That’s when I started paying attention.”

Ortiz, who hit .286 and hit 541 homers with 1,768 RBIs playing for Boston and Minnesota, made 88% of his plate appearances as a designated hitter. That’s the most of anyone in the Hall of Fame, surpassing Seattle’s Edgar Martinez, who was a DH on 71.7% of his recording appearances.

The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Ortiz was one of the game’s best clutch hitters, helping the Red Sox to three World Series titles in his 14 seasons. And his miles-wide grin endeared him to fans far and wide, making him one of the game’s most popular players.

A group of high school players from Easton, Pennsylvania confirmed this on the day. At the Hall of Fame, after their game rained out, they happened to follow him on his tour before greeting him and chanting his nickname.

On his way through the Hall of Fame, Ortiz stopped and stared at the Ted Williams exhibit and spoke in awe of the victims of the Splendid Splinter during World War II, when he spent three years in military service from 1943-1945, rather than playing the Red Sox. Ortiz also wielded one of Williams’ racquets and one of Babes in the hall.

That made the impact of the day even more poignant.

“I grew up tough, man. I grew up tough,” Ortiz said. “My childhood wasn’t easy, but I had great parents who guided me and kept me out of trouble.”

Ortiz, a left-hander, was signed from Seattle as a teenager and then transferred to Minnesota as a minor league. He made his major league debut with the Twins in 1997, but there was no hint of a future Hall of Famer. He was released in 2002 and then signed by Boston and his career took off.

Nevertheless, these six years with the twins remain anchored in his thoughts. Upon entering the Plaque Gallery, Ortiz made a beeline for Kirby Puckett’s plaque and snapped a selfie in front of it.

Puckett, who died of a stroke in 2006, was in the front office in Minnesota and developed a close friendship with Ortiz when he arrived. Ortiz wore the number 34 with the Red Sox in honor of Puckett, who wore the number for the twins.

When asked about the selfie, Ortiz put a hand over his eyes and stared down, only able to answer in four words as tears welled up in his eyes.

“That was my type,” he said.

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