Goodbye, David Ortiz

I was going to resist the urge to be sentimental about David Ortiz for the simple reason that I don’t really like baseball. I do, however, really enjoy playoff baseball and I always have. Like most people, I really enjoy a good pitching duel and those tend to happen more in the postseason.

In 2004, I was living in San Diego. My Boston roots made the Red Sox playoff run even more exciting. Far away from home, it was something to cling to, some sense of security of home. We found a “Boston” bar at which to watch the games. We donned Red Sox gear and cheered like hell.

You reach a certain point in your sport fandom where you watch guys play their entire career. I’m a little beyond that and I’ve seen perhaps a generation and a half come into any league and play their entire career. When David Ortiz was blossoming into one of the best clutch hitters in Red Sox history, it was 2004. It seems so long ago.

I was 22, living across the country. Unmarried. Just graduated. It was (perhaps too much) fun. We spent money we barely had. We went out all the time. We smoked. We took terrible care of our bodies. But, shit, we had a blast doing it. My parents were still together, living in the home I grew up in. Everything seemed possible. More than a decade later, I’m back on the east coast, having lost touch with some of the friends I’d made out west; Married, two kids, a house, and a dog. It’s a reality I couldn’t picture when I was watching Ortiz become kryptonite to Mariano Rivera’s Superman.

And that’s what this is about. David Ortiz never played a central role in my life as a sports fan. He played a role that reminded me more of a feeling, more of a time in my life than as a guy I rooted for. His retirement means a lot of things to people who watched him play more than 162 games each season. They can recall plays and idiosyncrasies that I cannot. They can mimic his batting stance and imitate his voice.

For me, Ortiz’s retirement reminds me of a place and time, of a person I once was. As Joan Didion said, we should remain on at least nodding terms with the people we once were. That’s what Ortiz meant to me. So long as he was still in the league, there was still that part of me, sitting at a street-side table on Garnet Avenue in Pacific Beach, having a hookah and a beer, alive. We all grow up some time, I suppose.

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