Of course, in the case of fellow Dominican Pedro Martinez, the former star pitcher is here because of his status as a member of the Hall of Fame. But others like Johnny Damon, Jason Varitek and the Puerto Rican-Cuban Mike Lowell have come with a single goal: To see “Big Papi” enter the Hall, with whom they were crowned World Series champions as members of the Red Sox in the decade from the 2000s.
“I always tried to stand up for my teammates,” said Ortiz, elected in his first opportunity on the ballot of the members of the Baseball Writers Association of North America (BBWAA) with 77.9% of the vote. “That’s why you’re going to see so many here. This is a fraternity. Same thing here, with all these Hall of Famers. That, what happens here, we build it on the field in our races”.
Ortiz has been the center of attention in Cooperstown in recent days, with fans arriving from the Dominican Republic, the state of Massachusetts and many more places. The former Dominican slugger has also promoted a great party, the “Cooperstown Latin Fest” to celebrate after the ceremony of his entrance to the museum of baseball immortals.
As the fourth Dominican with a plaque in Cooperstown, Ortiz already shared Friday with his “compadre” Vladimir Guerrero Mr. (exalted in 2018) and his “older brother” Martínez (2015). And of course, he pays a separate bow to the first Quisqueyan in the Hall, former serpentine player Juan Marichal (1983).
“Don Juan was basically the one who opened the doors for Pedro, Vladi and now me,” said Ortiz, who hit 541 home runs in a 20-season major league career. “It is a great honor to have him present. I call him ‘The Doctor’, because he is such a great human being. We all love him and appreciate the work he has done over the years, especially starting his career as a Dominican.”
With many family present, Ortiz says that on Sunday, he will take time to remember his mother, Angela Rosa Arias, who died in a car accident on New Years 2002.
“Everyone would like on opportunities like this, to have their family. I, thank God, am going to have mine there,” said Ortiz. “Always thinking about my mom. I was a very close person to her. And nothing, ask God”.
TIES WITH TONY OLIVA AND THE TWINS
Oliva, a Twins legend as a player, coach, ambassador and more, dealt a lot with Ortiz when he moved up to the major leagues with Minnesota in 1997, until the departure of the Dominican from the team after the 2002 campaign.
“Tony was always there with us, sharing, telling us what we had to do,” recalled Ortiz, who dined this week with Oliva, Kaat (former Minnesota star pitcher) and Twins officials. “He always wanted the best for us. Is incredible. I am surprised to be entering the Hall of Fame on the same day as Tony and Jim Kaat. It is an honor”.
For your part, Olive will finally have its time on the podium Sunday, after a nearly 46-year wait since his retirement after the 1976 season. A career .304 hitter with three batting titles and the American League Rookie of the Year award in 1964, among many other achievementsOliva was elected in this cycle by the Golden Days Committee.
“People have called me ‘Tony O’ or ‘Number 6’ or something else. Now they call me ‘Hall of Fame,'” Oliva said Saturday with a big smile. “When I played, I gave 100%. But I never expected to come to the United States to play baseball.
“You don’t think about the importance of being in the Hall of Fame. And then they built a statue of me outside the stadium in Minnesota. I never dreamed of that. Every time I pass by, I laugh and say to myself, ‘You did a good job, beautiful’”.
Now it’s not just in Minnesota. Oliva will now have her license plate forever in Cooperstown.
“Who was going to believe that the boy from the farm in Cuba was going to be tall in front of the stadium? And now, being in the Hall of Fame, what can I say?” said the native of Pinar del Río. “I’m going to be next to a lot of great players, but more importantly for me, there are a lot of fans. They tell me, ‘we’ve been waiting for this for a long time.’ That’s the most important thing for me.”
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Ortiz and Oliva with their expected moment in Cooperstown