AL teammates embrace Big Papi in final All-Star appearance
SAN DIEGO (AP) – David Ortiz ended his All-Star Game career with quite a walk off.
The popular Big Papi was embraced outside the dugout by nearly every member of the American League roster Tuesday night when he was replaced by a pinch runner and strolled back to the bench.
Miguel Cabrera playfully tousled Ortiz’s hair. As the Boston slugger made his way through the scrum of players, he wrapped his Red Sox teammate Jackie Bradley Jr. in a bear hug and lifted him off the ground.
Ortiz called the embraces “something I’ll never forget. … You see all your boys.”
Catcher Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants clapped his bare hand against his mitt as Ortiz left the field.
The American League beat the National League 4-2.
Ortiz helped the Red Sox end their 86-year World Series title drought in 2004, and then helped them win the Series in 2007 and 2013, when he was chosen as MVP.
Ortiz announced on Nov. 18 – his 40th birthday – that 2016 would be his final season.
“Things are getting harder. … As you get older, it gets a little difficult,” he said after coming out of his 10th All-Star Game.
The designated hitter leads the majors in slugging percentage, on-base average and extra-base hits this year. He’s batting .332 with 22 home runs and 72 RBIs.
The Red Sox are two games behind Baltimore in the AL East at the break.
Ortiz drew a walk in the third inning from Miami’s Jose Fernandez, who said a day earlier that he’d groove a pitch for the slugger. Ortiz kidded with Fernandez on his way to first base after taking ball four.
“I was supposed to hit a home run in my second at-bat. My boy told me he was going to throw me a fastball and the first pitch was a changeup,” Ortiz said. “I was like, ‘I thought it was going to be a fastball?’
“He told me yesterday all he was going to throw me was fastballs. He told me it was the catcher’s fault – he called it. Then 3-2 he threw me a slider and I’m like, ‘Are you trying to break my back?’ But he said it was the catcher’s fault.”
Fernandez called it “an amazing experience. At first I was just throwing fastball, fastball, fastball, so I thought I should mix it up with a breaking pitch and he took it. I was nervous. I couldn’t believe that I was actually pitching to him. We both looked at each other and smiled. We knew what was going on. It was great. He signed the jersey I brought for him. It was just special.”
A few moments after Ortiz reached first, AL manager Ned Yost sent in Edwin Encarnacion to run and Ortiz left to a nice ovation.
Yost said he told Ortiz before the game that he was going to get two at-bats, and if he reached on the second one, he would come out. If Ortiz hadn’t reached, Yost planned to send him up for a third at-bat, wait for him to be announced and then send up a pinch-hitter.
“But what he didn’t know is I wanted the team to go out and meet him. So that was a cool moment, I thought.”
Big Papi addressed his teammates earlier in the day.
“I told them that it takes a lot of work to get to the All-Star Game. You don’t get here with a good name or a good family. You have to put up the numbers. I told them that they have to do that for their whole career.”
Asked about his career overall, he said: “I have learned so much about this game, I would like to spread it out to the young kids in the game.”
Ortiz grounded out hard in his first at-bat in his finale.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling to be around this guy,” said Kansas City catcher Salvador Perez, who homered for the AL. “That’s the guy we want to be.”