Flying solo, Papi still makes All-Star splash
Despite not being surrounded by teammates, Ortiz enjoys All-Star experience
KANSAS CITY -- David Ortiz arrived at All-Star Media Day fashionably late, but with his usual presence. The bling ranged from a weighty watch to two rings to an earring to a necklace to a bracelet.
Back at yet another big event, Big Papi stood out, even in a crowd of the best players in the game.
But something else stood out about this year. For the first time in his eight appearances with the Red Sox, Ortiz didn't have any teammates along for the ride.
In recent years, the Red Sox have occupied an entire corner of the banquet room to themselves on media day. But not this year.
Ortiz is the centerpiece of a .500 team that would likely be well below that if not for his impressive production at the age of 36.
"It's always an honor for me to be here and be a part of it," Ortiz said. "This is something that you're not going to do your whole life. In the period of time you're doing it, you better enjoy it, because that's something that every time somebody mentions your name, they talk about it."
The 83rd Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. Pregame ceremonies begin at 7:30 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.
Fans will also have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet via the 2012 MLB.com All-Star Game MVP Vote during the All-Star Game on MLB.com
American League lineup
|1. Derek Jeter, NYY||R||SS|
|2. Robinson Cano, NYY||L||2B|
|3. Josh Hamilton, TEX||L||LF|
|4. Jose Bautista, TOR||R||RF|
|5. Prince Fielder, DET||L||1B|
|6. Adrian Beltre, TEX||R||3B|
|7. David Ortiz, BOS||L||DH|
|8. Mike Napoli, TEX||R||C|
|9. Curtis Granderson, NYY||L||CF|
|Justin Verlander, DET||R||P|
With his career still flourishing, Ortiz might be able to reach double-digit All-Star appearances before it's over.
"I hope to keep coming here as long as I'm playing," Ortiz said.
And for the third season in a row, Ortiz is at the All-Star Game with uncertainty about his future. He has been going year-to-year, and it clearly hasn't impacted his performance.
If anything, Ortiz seems to excel with a chip on his shoulder.
A lot of All-Stars have left Boston over the years. That's the nature of life in the Majors during the free agency era. But Jonathan Papelbon, who is representing the Phillies instead of the Red Sox for his fifth All-Star appearance, can't imagine a Fenway summer without Big Papi.
"In my opinion, the Red Sox are not the Red Sox without him, period," Papelbon said. "I don't care what he asks for -- I'm trying to make that big man happy."
Adrian Beltre, another ex-teammate of Ortiz's, is relishing the opportunity to reunite with him at the All-Star Game for the second year in a row.
"I'm seeing what I see every year, a guy who has been consistent," Beltre said. "He may have a bad month or first half occasionally, but he has been great year in and year out. I've known that guy all my life. We grew up 15 minutes away from each other. I always knew he could hit. There has never been any doubt about that."
On the strength of his bat and larger-than-life personality, Ortiz has turned himself into a Boston legend.
In this day and age, there aren't many players you associate with a certain team.
But when you think Red Sox, Ortiz is probably the first name that pops into your mind.
He has shed blood, sweat and tears for his team for a decade now, and therefore it pains Ortiz to see the Red Sox limp into the All-Star break -- literally and figuratively.
"It's a little crazy, you know, not being able to see some of my teammates here like usual," Ortiz said. "It was strange. At the same time, we have a lot of them on the DL, so that's the major reason I guess."
Though Ortiz isn't going to call any of his teammates out, some of the ones who have stayed healthy have underperformed.
Maybe the All-Star break is just what the Red Sox need right now.
"I think the break sometimes gives the players some breathing room going into the second half to think a little bit about their performance, what they need to do better, what they need to improve on," Ortiz said. "I think after the break, a lot of the players regroup. You know that's the last ride, the last part of the season, so hopefully that's our case and we start playing better."
As for Ortiz, he probably can't do much better. He leads his team in nearly every relevant category, including a .312 average, 62 runs, 22 homers, 57 RBIs, a .406 on-base percentage and a .607 slugging percentage.
"I have learned through the years to be patient, which has a lot to do with being [older]," Ortiz said. "When you're young, you have so much energy and you want to overdo things. You get caught in trouble. I've been doing the opposite right now, just being patient."
"I mean, I'm happy for him. I couldn't be happier for him," Papelbon said.
So even if it's different for the Red Sox to have just one All-Star, it is perfectly fitting that Ortiz is the one.