David Ortiz beloved in Santo Domingo, Boston, and beyond
There may never be a more beloved public figure here than the burly slugger known as Big Papi.
He has been revered as much for his off-color pep talks and bear hugs as he has for his 500-plus career home runs and those clutch hits that helped break an 86-year curse and bring home three world championships.
The shooting in Santo Domingo on Sunday night of David Ortiz, who retired three years ago after 14 seasons as a designated hitter and first baseman for the Red Sox, stirred an outpouring of concern throughout the region and beyond.
It also led many to reflect on how much No. 34 has meant to Boston and the Dominican Republic, where he was born and has donated millions of dollars to help needy kids.
Former president Obama recalled how Ortiz stood before fans at Fenway Park five days after the city was shaken by the bombings at the Boston Marathon in 2013, and how, with just a few pointed words, helped begin to stitch up some deep wounds.
“Six years ago, David Ortiz’s spirit and resolve helped us all begin to heal from the Boston Marathon bombing,” Obama wrote in a tweet on Monday.
Team officials echoed that respect.
At a press conference at Fenway Park, Red Sox chief executive Sam Kennedy said he wasn’t surprised to see so many people showing their support for Ortiz.
“When we needed David Ortiz the most, he was there for us,” Kennedy said. “It’s appropriate, and expected, that this community would rally around David when he needs us the most.”
Sox manager Alex Cora, a former teammate, was moved by the news.
“This guy is bigger than life,” Cora said Monday afternoon. “That vibe he brought in on a daily basis to those teams, and what he brings any time I see him, that smile.
“He’ll give you a hug, a big smile. He does it with everybody. He does it with my daughter, my kids, so, it’s been a tough one. I just hope when he gets here, he’s fine, and we can see that big man again with us and filling a room with joy.’’
At an event at the Seaport World Trade Center, Governor Charlie Baker said he was “stunned, shocked, and saddened” by the news.
“Everybody who comes near that guy hopes for a speedy recovery, because he’s a very special person,” Baker said. “He’s an unbelievable baseball player, probably the greatest clutch hitter of all time. But if you follow a lot of the commentary about David Ortiz over the course of his career in Boston, it’s always been about what a great person he is. That’s where everybody starts.”
In a phone interview, Mayor Martin J. Walsh recalled visiting a school with Ortiz and admiring how much time he took to talk to the kids.
“He’s a real human being — personable — who genuinely cares about people,” he said. “When you meet him, you feel like you know him forever … He’s a part of our community, our city, our fabric.”
Walsh added that the shooting has reverberated through every city neighborhood. “A lot of people felt that one of their own was shot last night,” he said.
Outside Fenway Park on Monday night, many fans were distraught.
“I cried last night,” said Jim Cooper, 45, who was visiting from Texas and who had worn a David Ortiz jersey to Sunday’s game.
Kris Concannon, 50, of Quincy, said that she was glad that Ortiz was being brought back to Boston, where Red Sox officials said he would be treated.
“We consider him a Bostonian,” she said. “We’ve adopted him . . . or he’s adopted us.”
She added: “He’s a legend.”
The appreciations for Ortiz consumed Twitter for much of the day. They came from former teammates and other sports icons.
Former Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez posted a picture of him hugging Ortiz.
Another former teammate, pitcher Jon Lester, wrote that he was in “utter shock.”
“That was no robbery, that was a hit, and they better get to the bottom of it,’’ Lester tweeted. ‘’Thank god no amount of evil or hate can overcome a heart that big.’’
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady tweeted that “Papi defines Boston Strong.”
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski called Ortiz “a legend, friend, and represent[s] strength like no other.”
Even avowed haters of the Red Sox sang Ortiz’s praises.
“Like all fans, I love Big Papi,” wrote Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor and lifelong Yankees fan.
Many noted that Ortiz has touched people as much with his philanthropy as his clutch hits.
The David Ortiz Children’s Fund has helped more than 800 children with life-saving heart surgeries in the Dominican Republic and provided help to thousands of others throughout New England, said Hallie Lorber, president of the Children’s Fund.
“We are so grateful for the outpouring of support and ask that everyone continue to send good thoughts and prayers,” Lorber said in a statement.
Last fall, Ortiz hosted the 11th annual David Ortiz Celebrity Golf Classic, a four-day social and golf outing in the Dominican Republic that raised $1.1 million for his charity.
Ortiz has said hosting the annual fund-raiser is one of his “favorite times of the year.”
“Not only does it give me a chance to get back to the Dominican Republic. But it also gives me the opportunity to help kids that are in serious need of help,” Ortiz wrote in a blog post in December 2018. “Throughout my career, I always enjoyed giving back — and I still do.”
A valet who works at an auto detailing shop across the street from the bar where Ortiz was shot pointed to the ex-player’s good works.
“Everyone is hurting over what happened to David,” said Juan Manuel, 40. “He is such a good man. He doesn’t hurt anybody. He helps children. He helps the poor.”
Fans waiting for a flight to the Dominican Republic at Logan Airport described why they have revered Ortiz.
“He’s such a good man, such a humanitarian,” said Ramon Pena, 68, in Spanish. “He’s a leader.”
They adore him, they said, because he has made them proud to be Dominican.
Cristina Vallejo, 62, added: “He elevated our country.”
Globe staff writers Emily Sweeney and Maria Cramer and correspondent Lauren Fox contributed to this report.