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David Ortiz Biography

league season red sox

1975—

Baseball player

Ortiz, David, photograph. AP/Wide World Photos.

Lots of baseball players shine early, struggle a bit as they make the transition to the majors, then blossom and lead their teams to World Series glory. Few, however, do it with the charisma and drama of David Ortiz. Known almost as much for his appealing personality as for his lethal bat, Ortiz played a key role in helping the Boston Red Sox win their first World Series in 86 years, ending a reign of futility that had reached mythic proportions.

David Americo Ortiz Arias was born on November 18, 1975, in Santa Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. Ortiz, the oldest of parents Enrique and Angela Rosa's four children, was born with an easygoing personality that allowed him to make friends readily. Baseball was big in the household. Enrique, who went by the nickname Leo, was a baseball player himself, having played professional and semi-professional ball in the Dominican leagues for years. David's heroes were the Martinez brothers, Ramon and Pedro, local boys who had made good in the major leagues.

At Estudia Espallat High School Ortiz excelled in basketball as well as baseball. The major league Seattle Mariners saw enough promise in Ortiz to sign him to a free agent contract in 1992, shortly after his 17th birthday. He spent one season with the Mariners' Dominican Summer League team before moving on to the club's Peoria, Arizona-based rookie league squad. Initially, Ortiz struggled with the bat, hitting only .246 that year. However, he showed flashes of skill in the field. The following year, things started to click offensively. In 1995 he batted .332 and led the Arizona League in doubles and runs batted in (RBIs).

That performance earned Ortiz a promotion to the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers of the Class A Midwest League, where he quickly established himself as one of the Mariners' top prospects. For 1996, he batted .322 with 18 home runs and 93 RBIs, earning him honors as a Midwest league All-Star. During the off-season that followed, Ortiz—who had gone by the name David Arias up to this time—was traded to the Minnesota Twins organization. From a career standpoint, the trade was good new for Ortiz. The Mariners already had established starters at both of his likely positions, first base and designated hitter, while the Twins had question marks at both positions. Ortiz started the 1997 season with the Class A Fort Myers Miracle, the Twins' Florida State league affiliate. It was here that he started going by the name Ortiz. It didn't take long for him to make his mark there; he got hits in his first 11 games with Fort Myers. In June he was promoted to the Class AA New Britain Rock Cats. Again Ortiz wasted no time destroying pitchers at his new level. After only a month in Class AA, he moved up again, this time to Salt Lake City in the AAA Pacific Coast League. While his numbers in AAA ball were not as impressive right away as they had been at his two previous minor league stops, Ortiz was still called up to the parent team in September, where he batted an impressive .327 in 15 games for the Twins.

On the strength of that performance, Ortiz started the 1998 campaign in the majors. Early in the season, however, he broke a bone in his wrist and was rendered inactive until late June. Once he was back in action, he quickly returned to form, batting .277 with nine home runs and 46 RBIs in 86 games. In spite of his success, Ortiz spent the entire 1999 season back in the minors at Salt Lake City, much to his chagrin, with the exception of a few games in the majors at the end of the season. 2000 was another story. By June, Ortiz had established himself as an every-day player. He batted .282 for the season. He acquitted himself well in the field too, finishing the season with only one error in 223 chances.

2001 was a pivotal year for the Twins. After managing to win only 69 games the previous season, they recorded a respectable 85 victories in 2001. Unfortunately, Ortiz's role in that turnaround was diminished by another wrist fracture, which kept him out of the lineup for several weeks. Ortiz struggled with injuries—this time a knee–for the first half of 2002 as well. During the second half of that season, however, he began to show the hitting wizardry that has marked his career since. He caught fire after the All-Star break, finishing the season with 20 home runs and 75 RBIs in only 125 games, and helping Minnesota capture its first division title in more than a decade.

Of course, one consequence of success for a baseball player is that his price tag goes up, and Ortiz became too expensive for the financially struggling Twins. They attempted to find a trade for him but, failing to do so, ended up releasing him during the off-season. Fellow Dominican Pedro Martinez of the Boston Red Sox, who had been something of a mentor to Ortiz, lobbied Red Sox management to sign Ortiz. Red Sox management listened. They soon signed Ortiz to a one-year contract. With the Red Sox, Ortiz eventually beat out a number of competitors for the role of full-time designated hitter. In the last 97 games along of the 2003 season, he batted .293 and socked 29 home runs, helping his team to a spot in the playoffs. In the postseason, Ortiz had several key hits, but the Red Sox came up short in the American League Championship Series against their archrivals the Yankees.

The Red Sox rewarded Ortiz for his contribution in 2003 with a two-year contract worth more than $12 million. Not only did he did not disappoint in 2004; he emerged as one of the top players in the league. He was chosen to play in the Major League All-Star Game for the first time in his career. More importantly, Ortiz helped lead the team to 98 wins and another playoff berth. He recorded new personal bests in a number of categories: 41 home runs, 47 doubles, and 139 RBIs; and his batting average was a solid .301. Above all, he helped the Red Sox win their first World Series title since 1918, breaking the so-called "Curse of the Bambino"—a championship drought said to have been brought on by the Red Sox's foolish sale of Babe Ruth to the Yankees before the 1920 season.

At a Glance …

Born David Americo Ortiz Arias on November 18, 1975 in Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic; married Tiffany Ortiz; children: Yessica, Alexandra and D'Angelo.

Career: Professional baseball player, 1992–. Seattle Mariners, free agent, 1992; Mariners' Peoria, AZ Rookie League team, 1994-95; Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Mariners' Class A affiliate), 1996; Fort Myers (Minnesota Twins Class A affiliate), 1997; New Britain (Twins Class AA affiliate), 1997; Salt Lake City (Twins AAA affiliate), 1997-99; Minnesota Twins major league club, parts of 1997, 1998 and 1999, and full seasons 2000-02; Boston Red Sox, 2003–.

Awards: Baseball America, Best Defensive First Baseman, 1997; American League All-Star Team, 2004; Most Valuable Player, American League Championship Series, 2004.

By all accounts, Ortiz's contributions in the clubhouse are as important to the Red Sox as his production on the field. He is widely regarded as a team leader, and his easygoing personality is appreciated by teammates, fans and journalists alike. While comparisons to Babe Ruth's legendary performance are at best premature, Ortiz will go down in history as one of the players most responsible for terminating once and for all the Bambino's legendary Beantown hex.

Sources

Periodicals

New York Times, June 29, 2004, p. D1; October 9, 2004, p. D3; October 19, 2004, p. D2.

Sports Illustrated, August 2, 2004, p. 149.

The Sporting News, November 1, 2004, p. 17.

USA Today, October 26, 2004, p. 1C.

On-line

"David Ortiz," JockBio.com, www.jockbio.com/Bios/Ortiz/Ortiz_bio.html (March 1, 2005).

"David Ortiz Biography and Career Highlights," Boston Red Sox, http://boston.redsox.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/team/player_career.jsp?player_id=120074 (March 11, 2005).

—Bob Jacobson

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