For members of the Red Sox organization, the initial reaction to news that franchise cornerstone David Ortiz had been shot in the Dominican Republic proved similar to that felt throughout much of New England and beyond. A numb sense of bewilderment and confusion prevailed, while making sense of an event that bordered on incomprehensible.
“It shocked us to the core,” said team president and CEO Sam Kennedy. “It was jarring. It was frankly stunning and terrifying. It was a horrific incident.”
“You’re shaken, really, is what it comes down to,” added president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski. “Not only is he iconic, but he’s a friend. You just feel for him and his family.”
With disbelief giving way to an understanding that Ortiz was indeed facing a medical emergency, team officials confronted the raw emotions of the news with determination to help the 43-year-old in any way possible. A person whom manager Alex Cora described as a “superhero without a cape” suddenly needed his own rescue.
In the hours that followed the initial reports of the shooting on Sunday night, the team worked feverishly to ascertain information about what had transpired while also trying to formulate a plan to help.
Kennedy, principal owner John Henry (owner of the Globe), team chairman Tom Werner, limited partner Linda Pizzuti Henry (the Globe’s managing director), president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, assistant GM Eddie Romero, senior vice president Raquel Ferreira, members of the club’s medical team (including team medical director Larry Ronan), and a pair of Red Sox employees at the team’s Dominican academy — Javier Hernandez and Martin Rodriguez — were all involved in the efforts to gather information and try to offer support Ortiz and his family.
From roughly 9:30 or 10 p.m. on Sunday night through Monday morning, communication was, in Kennedy’s words, “constant” about the situation. Hernandez and Rodriguez were particularly valuable in helping to provide updates from Santo Domingo.
“Fortunately, we had a couple people on the ground there who were incredible in getting us some information. That really helped us and allayed our fears a little bit,” said Romero. “But we understood it was a serious situation.”
In recognition of that notion, the team defined its mission as straightforward.
“Our focus right now, our exclusive focus, is on his health and well-being and to do what we can to support the family and get David back here to Boston,” Kennedy said at a press conference, flanked by Dombrowski and Romero.
Hence, in concert with Ortiz’s family members (including wife Tiffany Ortiz, with whom Kennedy established contact via text message), the decision was made to provide an air ambulance to transport Ortiz — who underwent the surgery at the Clinica Abel Gonzalez in the Dominican — to Boston for medical care at Mass General.
By Monday afternoon, the team was in position to help a puzzled clubhouse — featuring many players who’d either once been teammates of the Red Sox great or who’d gotten to know him in his current Red Sox special assistant capacity – make sense of what had transpired. After Kennedy, Dombrowski, and Romero spoke to the media at 3:30 p.m. on Monday, Cora was joined by Kennedy, Dombrowski, and Henry in a meeting with the players about Ortiz’s status.
“I wish sometimes that we lived back in the 80s because stuff like this, overnight, it was tough to see everything,” said Cora. “There were some questions about what’s going on. They gave answers to whatever they could answer.”
Ortiz had improved to serious but stable condition by Monday evening, a status that permitted him to take off from the Dominican before the game’s first pitch. At roughly 7 p.m., with Ortiz in the air and just before the anthem, Red Sox P.A. announcer Henry Mahegan asked fans at Fenway Park for the Red Sox-Rangers game to “offer a moment of reflection, thought, and prayer for a complete healing and a full recovery for our beloved Big Papi.”
During the silence, Ortiz’s number 34 was posted on the scoreboard in left-center, along with a message, “We send our love to David Ortiz.” In a ballpark where Ortiz had memorably given strength to a shaken region following the Marathon bombings of 2013, the Red Sox hoped that their fans might prove capable of returning the favor.
“I think we all remember in 2013 when we needed David Ortiz the most, he was there for us in late-April,” Kennedy said. “And so, it’s appropriate and expected that this community would rally around David when he needs us the most.”