For the final time, David Ortiz will head to Seattle to face a Mariners team that gave him his first opportunity in professional baseball. It was 24 years ago that Ramon De Los Santos encountered Ortiz in the Dominican Republic and saw a glimmer of possibility.
“That guy fell in love with me the minute he saw me. It didn’t take him long to sign me. All he did was watch me hit when I was 16. When I was 16, this guy was like, ‘This guy is going to be special,’” Ortiz recalled. “He saw this big, tall, skinny lefthander. That’s every scout’s dream: 6-[foot]-3, slim, tall, hitting balls over the fence at that age. It was cool.”
It was Santos who would later inform Ortiz that the Mariners had dealt him to the Twins in 1996 as a player to be named in exchange for third baseman Dave Hollins. While Ortiz has a fondness for the Mariners, he recalls Seattle’s decision to deal him as having illuminated another sense of possibility.
“Enjoy [being traded]. That’s a team that wants you,” said Ortiz. “That’s a team that needs you. When you play out there, you’re not just playing for the team that you play for. All 30 teams are watching you. So whenever somebody claims you, when they ask for you in a trade, when they pick you up, when they take you as a player to be named later, that means that organization wants you.”
De Los Santos passed away this offseason at the age of 66 after a long scouting career. Ortiz attended the funeral of someone to whom he remains forever grateful.
“He protected me,” Ortiz said. “He signed a lot of guys, but he took care of me. Rest in peace.”