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In opening remarks, Big Papi hits it out of the park

FORT MYERS, Fla. — There was a temporary cease-fire at JetBlue Park Tuesday morning. A gentle rain fell over the Red Sox spring training complex, and everybody took a break from the goofy disclosures and see-no-evil management responses of the first few days of camp. (This was moments before chairman Tom Werner said everything was just swell with Pablo Sandoval and then completely contradicted himself when he went on WEEI.) It was the day before the first official workout for the full squad, and the only news was the opening farewell speech of David Ortiz.

Big Papi, who already is in the conversation as perhaps the second-greatest Red Sox player of all time (sorry, young people, Ted Williams will always be No. 1), carried the day as he engaged in a thoughtful and thoroughly noncontroversial 34-minute news conference with the hungry wolves who’ve been delivering provocative dispatches and photos from camp.


Ortiz is 40. He has pledged to retire at the end of this season. It will be a Yaz-like, Jeter-like tour de force. It might be something akin to the Beatles’ last show at Candlestick Park in 1966.

Papi went all James Earl Jones on us Tuesday. He reminded us of everything that’s great about Boston baseball. And how everything could be great again. Taking us back to his roots in the baseball-crazed Dominican Republic, he delivered an eloquent explanation of why he has loved playing in Boston — remarks that aptly explain why he is so beloved by Hub fans.

“The first time I ever played at Fenway Park, it made me feel like I was playing back in my country,’’ said Papi. “I came from an organization [Twins] that had [artificial] turf. We don’t have turf in the Dominican. We have grass.

“So walking into Fenway, feeling the grass, feeling that summer heat, feeling everybody on top of you, feeling everybody watching you, knowing how much our fans suffer every time we lost a game . . . my first year [2003], I kind of noticed a lot of it.


“I noticed in the beginning when I wasn’t an everyday player. I noticed at the end of the season when I was in the lineup every day. That’s how they are back home. That’s how we are. We live for the game. We love the game. We support the game.

“Red Sox fans, man, they are just like us. It was easy for me to adjust myself to our fans. Every time we lose a game, I suffered just like them. It’s so important to win. And all of a sudden you don’t, it’s something that gets to you. And Red Sox fans, that’s how it always has been.’’

Bingo. That’s it right there. Red Sox owners should take the preceding paragraphs and stencil them onto the left field wall at Fenway Park. Speaking in his second language, in a tone none of us have been able to summon, Ortiz put words to the love affair between himself and Boston. It was Churchillian.

Ortiz followed that up with choice comments that should be required reading for teammates Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez (dubbed the “Gold Bust Twins” by the vaunted Boston Herald). Papi said he thrives on the passion and pressure of the Boston baseball experience.

“To me, I like it,” he said. “A lot of guys kind of like misunderstand it. They feel like that is pressure. For some reason, I don’t see it that way.


“For us, as players, it’s a challenge for us to get prepared better to play the game. You don’t take anything for granted. You just go out. I like the fact that every time I step on the plate, or even when I play first base, I try to do my best. I don’t use the excuse that I don’t play first base every day.

“I prefer to give everything I have. I know that I’m out there trying to win a ballgame. I take that very serious. I just love walking home with that W.’’

In other words, he gets it. He gets you. That — in addition to his 500 home runs and three championship rings — is why you love him. David Ortiz loves that Dirty Water. Boston is your (bleeping) city, and it is Big Papi’s (bleeping) city.

The rest of the late-morning presser was Ortiz boilerplate. He said things were just swell between himself and David Price. Allowing that Price is not a fan of pimping home runs, Papi told us that he’s not going to change and that every player should respect every other player’s position.

Ortiz said he was honored to be mentioned in the same breath as other Sox greats, but he might not deliver a home run in his final at-bat, as Teddy Ballgame famously did in 1960.


Paraphrasing John Updike (“a home run cannot be produced at will”), Papi said, “I don’t know if that’s going to happen. It ain’t that easy.’’

He rebuffed multiple opportunities to hedge on his pledge to retire.

“Time to go,’’ said the slugger.

Man, are we ever going to miss this guy.

Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.