07/13/2004 12:47 AM ET
First-round exit for Ortiz
Red Sox slugger swats three homers in Round 1
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
|David Ortiz enjoyed every minute of Monday's Home Run Derby. (Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
HOUSTON -- The biggest challenge of Monday's Century 21 Home Run Derby might have been wiping the joy off David Ortiz's face.
Even hitting just three home runs and getting knocked out after the first round couldn't diminish the experience for Ortiz, who, after his exit, turned into Miguel Tejada's personal cheering section.
Tejada, who won the contest with a record-setting 27 homers, credited his fellow Dominican from the Red Sox with an assist.
"He's great," Tejada said of Ortiz. "You see him, he's [patting my face with a towel]. I'm sweating and I love that. I think he's part of the win, too."
If you asked Ortiz what his favorite highlight was from this derby, he would be positively stumped.
Maybe it was running up to home plate and coaching Tejada to breathe in the exact same fashion Ortiz coached his wife, Tiffany, through labor just 48 hours earlier. Or perhaps it was watching in pure awe as Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Reggie Jackson and Co. greeted the participants in the pre-derby ceremony that celebrated the 500-homer club. Come to think of it, maybe it was watching the jaw-dropping show put on by hometown hero Lance Berkman in the second round.
"How about Berkman, dude. He was awesome," Ortiz said. "He's great. I was expecting him to go lefty, and he was ... 'I'm going to put on a show here.' He put so much into it that one round that he got a little tired. The home run derby, dude, you get tired."
Which is exactly why he thought Tejada needed a little cool-down during his record-setting second round of 15 homers.
"When Tejada was getting tired, I was like, breathe, dude," said Ortiz. "It was great. That guy was unbelievable. This guy, you know what we call him back home, we call him The Bus, because whenever anyone's on the bag, he picks them up."
Before the contest had even started, Ortiz was already relishing the moment. One by one, Hall of Fame sluggers came by and greeted him on their way to the field.
"The guys that walked through, there was a lot of homers," said Ortiz. "I couldn't believe that guy hit 560 or this guy hit 600-something or this guy hit 700-something. You know how hard it is to hit homers? I had guys walking by me, all of them hit 500 homers. I was like, I'm going to try to win, but I already got what I wanted, to see those guys even once in my life. I had a lot of fun, dude."
Ortiz plans on continuing this tradition every July.
"You know, from now on I'm going to [do well] in the first half, because I want to be in every All-Star Game," said Ortiz.
While he didn't seem nervous, he got the sense his batting practice pitcher Ino Guerrerro was.
Ortiz looked at the first four pitches he saw and didn't hit a home run until he had already used up five of his 10 outs.
"He got a little nervous, but I don't blame him," Ortiz said. "He told me, 'I won't get nervous.' I was like, 'Wait until you have 50,000 people looking at you. No cage, no nothing.'"
Teammate Manny Ramirez did his best to urge Ortiz on to victory, even walking to home plate during the middle of his round and rubbing his neck.
"He was trying to program me," laughed Ortiz.
As it turns out, Ortiz was right with the program. He was just there to soak in one of the most memorable nights of his baseball life.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.