The video lasted two minutes and David Ortiz spoke only 250 words, all accompanied by his usual smile. But by the time it was over, so much had changed for the Red Sox.
There’s a finish line for Ortiz and it’s at the end of next season. On Wednesday, he formally announced his plans to retire, and the countdown to the end of an unforgettable era started.
“I thought a lot about it. For every single one of us, athletes-wise, we run out of time at some point and life is based on different chapters, and I think I am ready to experience the next one in my life,” said Ortiz, who turned 40 on Wednesday.
Ortiz informed the Red Sox of his plans in the days leading up to the release of the video on The Players’ Tribune website. He did not mention the team in his remarks but did speak to the emotions involved.
“I would like people to remember me as a guy that was just part of the family. A guy that was trying to do the best, not only on the field but with everyone around him,” Ortiz said.
“Baseball is not just based on putting up numbers. This is our second family. Whoever is around you on a daily basis is like a second family and I always had good thoughts for everyone around me.”
Ortiz’s departure will leave more than a hole in the middle of the lineup. Since his arrival in 2003, Ortiz has been a centerpiece personality of a team that has won three World Series.
The Red Sox won 45 playoff games in their first 101 seasons. They have won 45 in the 13 seasons since Ortiz was signed. Ted Williams was a more accomplished hitter but no player did more to change the Red Sox than Ortiz.
“It is difficult to adequately convey what David Ortiz has meant to the Boston Red Sox. For his teammates, he has been the one constant force underpinning what it means to play for this organization and making it fun,” principal owner John Henry said.
“And for those of us who have had the honor of knowing him all these years, he has been exactly what you hope to see in a man who has been the face of this organization.”
In a brief introduction to the black-and-white video, Ortiz wrote that he wanted the focus of the upcoming season to be on bringing another championship to Boston. But his impending departure will be a yearlong story and the impact will be widespread.
Ortiz’s decision allows the Red Sox to plan ahead with the knowledge that his $16 million salary will come off the books for 2017. That flexibility could make it easier for the Sox to sign an expensive free agent starting pitcher this winter.
Ortiz’s absence also will create the team’s first opening at designated hitter since 2003. Hanley Ramirez profiles best as his successor assuming the Red Sox do not trade him first.
The Red Sox have said they intend to use Ramirez at first base, a position he has never played. That idea becomes easier to accept knowing it may just be temporary.
“At this point, I do not think [Ortiz’s announcement] alters our plans for next season,” said president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, who found out a few days ago that Ortiz would retire.
The biggest change will be not having Ortiz in the middle of the lineup. He hit .273 with 37 home runs and 108 RBIs last season as the third-oldest player in the American League.
Ortiz is a career .288 hitter with the Sox. His .951 OPS is the fourth highest in team history. Ortiz has 503 home runs, 445 of them for the Red Sox.
“David’s presence in our lineup is such a big part of who we are as a team,” manager John Farrell said. “I think I speak for all of us when I say that we all look forward to seeing what he has in store for what will be the final season in his tremendous career.”
For Farrell, Ortiz has been a sounding board because of his standing in the clubhouse. Teammates viewed him as a mentor. Ortiz also could be counted on to lend his name, money, and influence to charitable causes in and around Boston.
“His hug, his smile, and his relentless encouragement have comforted and inspired so many children. They understand the broader dimension that merits our calling him a hero,” team chairman Tom Werner said.
“I don’t know that we will be able to thank him in a way that is commensurate with his contributions, but we will relish the opportunity to try.”
Ortiz’s final regular-season game is scheduled for Oct. 2 at Fenway Park. The Red Sox, who have finished in last place two seasons in a row, hope to extend his career further than that.
“I’m really proud of what I had accomplished through the years. I’m very thankful for having fans like you guys who have supported me through my career. I wish I could play another 40 years. I have you guys behind me but it doesn’t work that way,” Ortiz said.
“After next year, time is up. So let’s enjoy next season.”