BRADENTON, Fla. — The repeated pings resonating from his metal bat are music to the ears of D’Angelo Ortiz as he launches one laser after another during batting practice.
The little kid who grew up in front of Red Sox Nation under the shadow of the Green Monster is now a strapping 6-foot-1-inch, 225-pound third baseman at IMG Academy.
“He’s got good thunder. He’s got power. He’s very good defensively,” says papi David Ortiz, when asked for a scouting report at a recent Red Sox Winter Weekend.
Besides the DNA, D’Angelo, a 15-year-old high school sophomore, has adopted the batting stance of his famous father and will don his No. 34 when the season starts. He wears a “Red Sox Nation” and a “Believe” wristband and is sporting a gold necklace that he borrowed from his father. But he doesn’t spit and clap his hands before each at-bat. He was a switch hitter until his father discovered he has more power from the right side.
Ask him what his goal is and he looks you straight in the eye.
“Better than my dad,” he says. “Once I get to the point where people stop calling me David Ortiz’s son, then that’s when I’m good enough.”
Mark Morawski, the varsity head coach of the IMG junior national team, says he is impressed with D’Angelo.
“He has the potential to be a big bat for us,” says Morawski.
Morawski says the other players flock to the charismatic kid.
“He’s a great ballplayer, a great teammate,’’ says Jimmy Koza, 16, of Chicago. “I mean, he does look exactly like [his father] but he doesn’t go around telling people, which is why everyone loves him. He’s just another kid.”
Batting-practice heroics don’t impress the young Ortiz, either.
“I don’t want to be a 5 o’clock hitter,” he says.
D’Angelo is still in a funk about a meaningless scrimmage the day before. He went 0 for 2, failing to hit the ball out of the infield. But he also made a nifty play at third base and scored the tying run in a come-from-behind victory.
“I feel like every game counts,” he says. “I’m just trying to get where I need to be. I don’t need to hit a home run every at-bat, but just hit the ball hard. That’s all I’m trying to do.”
Stars all around
D’Angelo Ortiz grew up in perhaps the greatest playground of them all: Fenway Park.
He was born around the All-Star break of the curse-breaking 2004 season. Abby Murphy, now Red Sox assistant director of media relations, used to babysit him in Weston.
“He was always ‘ball, ball, ball,’ ” says Murphy. “It was one of the first things he was communicating to me. He’d bring me the ball. And I’d throw the ball and he’d hit the ball with this big red bat.”
As he grew, babysitters would say, ‘‘I don’t think your mom wants you to play baseball in the house,” recalled his mother, Tiffany Ortiz. “And I’d be like, ‘No, we do. We play baseball everywhere.’ And he would hit Wiffle balls off lampshades and, like, we had dents in everything.”
His earliest Fenway memories are about the other children who hung out at the ballpark.
“My boys like Victor [Martinez] Jr., Manny [Ramirez] Jr., and, you know, people like that,” he says. “Just playing and having a good time.”
His grownup pals were ballplayers known by one name: Mookie, Manny, and Youk.
D’Angelo could imitate everybody’s batting stance. He would shag fly balls at the All-Star Game and ride on the duck boats after world championships. The players loved him, and D’Angelo ruled the kid contingent at Fenway.
“I didn’t ever want to step on anybody’s toes, but they were all, like, the coolest,’’ he says. “And it was just awesome.”
By 2014, he was in the outfield at Yankee Stadium when he saw a youngster in a Red Sox uniform shagging nearby.
“All of a sudden I see a guy smaller than me behind me and I’m, like, you can’t just be a new kid and come in here,” he says.
D’Angelo approached him.
“He’s like, ‘I’m Mookie.’ I looked at him and I’m, like, ‘Oh, he’s a player.’ ”
D’Angelo then recalled seeing on TV that the Sox had called up a “power hitter.”
“And I cannot lie to you, I swear to God, this is exactly what happened,” he says. “I said to him, ‘Are you the new power guy they just called up?’ He laughed and he goes, ‘Man, I wish. I am not a home run hitter. I hope I am one day.’
“And then I just went back to shagging fly balls. Come around two years later, he’s hitting right around where my dad is hitting. He’s fourth or third in the lineup and he’s hitting 30 [home runs]. So, I mean, that one guy, that gives you hope.”
D’Angelo hopes to follow in the footsteps of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who hit 15 home runs last year in his rookie season in Toronto and has taught him to be patient.
“I have all these opportunities, and the reason I get so mad is I try to make sure I’m taking advantage of them,” says D’Angelo.
At the scrimmage, the stands are empty save for three people. Two of them are there for D’Angelo — Tiffany Ortiz, who drove up from their Miami home, and Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers, who also is working out at IMG.
“He’s big and strong,” says Devers. “He has a good swing. He’s very athletic at third base. He’s very good.”
Also at IMG, but playing on another team, is Kaz Uehara, son of former Red Sox closer Koji Uehara and also a relief pitcher.
Kaz says he can’t wait for the time when he and D’Angelo reenact those glory days when Big Papi lifted Koji Uehara up after a save. “It’s going to happen,” says Kaz.
‘The toughest summer’
D’Angelo remembers as a 12-year-old playing in a tournament at Baseball Heaven, a baseball complex on Long Island. It was the last inning, and he nearly got beaned.
“I hear a kid in the stands go, ‘Uh-oh, you don’t throw at Big Papi’s son,’ ” he says.
It empowered him.
“I was like, man, I feel like a boss,” he says. “Like, this is a good time for me.”
He smacked a walkoff home run, just like you-know-who.
D’Angelo loves that his father can come to his games, but initially it was a distraction.
“I would take a pitch and look at him, take a strike, look at him,” he says.
In one game, he was 0 for 2, but then got a clutch hit at the end and was feeling good about himself.
“Everyone was fired up,” he says.
Everyone but his father.
“He’s like, ‘Why are you looking at me when you’re hitting?’ ” D’Angelo says.
So he stopped looking.
Last summer, D’Angelo was enrolled at a baseball academy in the Dominican Republic when his father was shot on June 9. His mother phoned him with the news the next morning and he rushed to the hospital.
“The first time was emotional for me,” says D’Angelo, who saw his father hooked up to wires and tubes after having surgery in the Dominican hospital.
Ortiz was airlifted to Massachusetts General Hospital, where he underwent two more surgeries during a nearly seven-week stay.
Only recently did D’Angelo fully grasp the severity of the situation.
“He asked me the other day, ‘We could’ve lost him, right?’ ” says Tiffany Ortiz. “Yeah, a bunch of times.”
“It was the toughest summer of my life,” says D’Angelo. “But it made my family much tougher. Me and him are super close. It’s like seeing a best friend get hurt, but like a best friend that is also your dad.
“When your friend gets hurt, you want to make him feel better, but you don’t know how. And especially when he’s the one usually taking care of you. It’s hard to put that in reverse.”
His father initially told him to stay in the Dominican Republic.
“Literally the day after, you know, he wanted me to keep training and playing baseball,” says D’Angelo.
But he returned to the Boston area to be close to his father. He also found a baseball league to play in.
“I was really proud of D,” says Tiffany Ortiz. “He obviously was taken out of this program that he was thriving in. He came home because we all had to be with David. I was pretty much living at the hospital and he found himself a baseball team in Boston.
“And he just really took it upon himself to do it because I couldn’t help him with it.”
Now he’s concentrating on the upcoming season. He hopes to get drafted in 2022.
He remembers as an 8-year-old signing a Red Sox contract for $5 offered to him by former Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino in 2012. Current chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom might want to check the fine print of that agreement.
“They want me for $5? That’s fine. I don’t care,” says D’Angelo.
Back in New England, David Ortiz says he didn’t push his son to be a baseball player.
“People expect him to be good because of what I was,” says Big Papi with a shrug. “I don’t want to put too much pressure on him. He’s busy educating himself and playing ball at the same time.
“He loves it. We’d love it if he was a baseball player, but if it doesn’t work out, what can you do? Educate yourself, graduate, and have a life.”
Stan Grossfeld can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.