07/07/2004 6:46 PM ET
Ortiz in Home Run Derby
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
BOSTON -- David Ortiz's fondest memory of an All-Star Home Run Derby occurred from his living room. The year was 2000 and Sammy Sosa was launching skyrockets all across the outer reaches of Turner Field. Ortiz, watching the show on television, was in a delirious state of disbelief.
|David Ortiz is looking forward to Monday's Century 21 All-Star Home Run Derby. (Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
"That was sick, bro," said Ortiz. "I hit my head on the roof once. I got up so high. I was like, whoa. I was so excited. You could see it just watching Barry Bonds. This guy, every time he hits a ball, he hits it 500 feet, and he was impressed when Sammy was hitting them. I'm not going to try and hit it that far, but I'll try and hit it over the fence."
Needless to say, Ortiz is more than a little bit excited about representing the American League in this Monday night's Century 21 All-Star Home Run Derby at Minute Maid Field in Houston.
"To me, when I watch the All-Star Game, I never want to miss the Home Run Derby," Ortiz said. "That's the fun part about all of this. It's tremendous."
It has been an exciting week for Ortiz. On Sunday, he was named to the All-Star Game for the first time in his career. And he got the word on Wednesday morning that he was invited to participate in the Home Run Derby as well.
Fellow Sox slugger Manny Ramirez was initially invited to participate, but he informed Major League Baseball that he wanted his good friend Ortiz to represent the Red Sox in the contest.
"Manny told me, 'I might be able to hit a home run in the game, but not in batting practice,'" laughed Ortiz. "Manny always says that he uses the pitchers' power to hit homers. There's not going to be no pitchers' power in the Home Run Derby."
Ortiz has no such trouble generating power during batting practice. The menacing slugger can launch BP blasts with the best of them.
Is he worried the Derby will mess up his swing?
"My swing has been messed up since I started playing baseball for the first time," Ortiz said. "I always [swing for the fences], bro."
He's been doing a pretty good job of it. Ortiz entered play on Wednesday tied with Ramirez and the Rangers' Hank Blalock for the American League lead in home runs with 22.
More than anything, the left-handed slugger is looking forward to the special atmosphere that will be at this year's contest. All of the living members of the 500-home run club have been invited to attend, a list that includes greats Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Reggie Jackson, Mike Schmidt, Willie McCovey, Frank Robinson, Mark McGwire, Ernie Banks and Eddie Murray. Ortiz is just as much looking forward to competing with active 500-home run bashers Bonds, Sosa, Ken Griffey Jr. and Rafael Palmeiro.
"Dude, when you're going to compete with guys like that, you've got to swing hard," said Ortiz. "Believe me, those guys are not a joke. You've got to swing hard. I guess just hanging out with those guys will be fun."
And thanks to the jovial presence of Ramirez, Ortiz looks forward to having his own cheerleading section.
"Manny is going to advise me," said Ortiz. "He gave me his spot in the Home Run Derby, so I better show up with some good stuff, otherwise he's going to kick my [backside]."
Sox manager Terry Francona was glad to see Ortiz receive the honor.
"This home run hitting contest should be good for baseball," Francona said. "It's really taken over more of the spotlight than the game. I can see why. David will probably do a great job. His personality, it's good for baseball. His personality will show through."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.