White Hat Sports Headlines

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Ortiz: The Prince of Portland

My compatriot Reid Durost is standing almost in line with Ortiz. He's in the blue and red striped shirt.

I attended last night's Portland Sea Dogs game in Portland where David Ortiz played his 5th rehabilitation game. The feel of the game was very weird, very unfamiliar to me. It was tough to judge a sporting even where there is one person there that everybody is there to see and nobody cares that much about anybody else in the game. Especially for a baseball game and more specifically for someone who isn't even playing in the field.

The ballpark was full last night and actually opened an extra hour earlier than usual so that people could watch his batting practice (8 home runs and one off an inflatable blimp in right center field that looks about 400 feet away that no double A player should ever reach.) The feeling was weird because everybody was there to see him, even the regulars who go to a lot of the games (you can pick these people out easily because they are the ones wearing Sea Dogs gear instead of just wearing Red Sox gear.) I tried to put the game into some sort of perspective but I was having a hard time in doing so until the score got out of hand (Portland lost 18-6) the game had the feel of one of the high school basketball games that ESPN broadcast when Lebron James was at St. Vincent-St Mary's. There was one player that made you want to watch the game, but he REALLY made you want to watch the game. That's what this was like, if you want a pop culture/baseball reference to what this was like, well here it is. It was like the beginning of the Brendan Fraiser/Albert Brooks movie "The Scout". In the beginning Albert Brooks has to scout Mexico for talent and finds Brendan Fraiser's character, Steve Nebraska. Nebraska is one of the greatest players Mexico has ever seen and they carry him into the game on a Pharaoh's caravan and drops him off on the mound. It is clear to all that are watching the game that he is the greatest player they have ever seen and they are there because Steve Nebraska is there.

That's how it was last night, people revere David Ortiz and feel like they have a connection with him because he is personable. You feel like you know David Ortiz, the opposite way I feel about somebody like Manny Ramirez. I thought to myself last night what other Red Sox player could get the same type of reaction that Ortiz got last night in Portland and in my life time it's a very short list and only one could do it at this point in their career.

1. Mo Vaughn (post 1995 MVP season)

2. Pedro Martinez ( Anytime during his time with Boston)

3. Nomar Garciaparra (1997 to 2000)

Mo was my favorite player growing up and he was absolutely larger than life when I got the opportunity to meet him in 1996. The guy had an incredible presence the way that Ortiz does, but he doesn't have the outgoing personality quite like Ortiz does. Mo was good, but not Ortiz good.

Nomar playing in double-A for a rehab assignment would have been huge news for the state but could he deliver when the ballpark is full of people who want to take his picture and want his autograph and still stay upbeat when he gets asked for the 30th time in two days if he has eaten any lobster yet? I doubt it, the lobster thing would have put him over the edge.

Pedro is the only other person I feel that could do what Ortiz has done but he has one distinct disadvantage and that is that he is a pitcher. Most likely if he was in Portland for an appearance it would only be for one game and then he would be gone, probably wouldn't even spend the night in the city. Pedro was fun loving like Ortiz but a lot more controversial and much more willing to speak his mind when things happened that he didn't like. It would have been incredible to see

Pedro in his prime make an appearance in Double-A even for a rehab start, just to see the dominance that was Pedro against minor league hitters. Pedro also shares the same as Ortiz in that he is so admired in Boston that even coming off a season like Ortiz is coming off (just not one of his best) people still want to see them because of who they are and that they are something just so special that it goes beyond their accomplishments and into something deeper.

People feel they have a connection with David Ortiz and seeing him in your own backyard is something special. I have the feeling that if and when I have a son of my own and take him to Hadlock field that I will tell him stories about seeing the "Great Ortiz" played at this very field and he won't believe me because son's don't believe half of what their fathers tell them. Then I will point to the roof on top of the right field bullpens and tell him about Ortiz hitting a ball in batting practice over that roof and hitting an inflatable blimp that they had sitting on it.

Some guys just mean more.

Sterling Pingree

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