Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Red Sox Celebrating Ortiz as Regular Season Ends

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Red Sox Celebrating Ortiz as Regular Season Ends

Article excerpt

BOSTON * Big Papi is in the field.

No, longtime Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz hasn't decided to play a few more games of defense before he retires. Instead, groundskeeper David Mellor mowed Ortiz's likeness into the center field grass for the three-time World Series champion's final regular- season series at Fenway Park.

The image showed Ortiz pointing to the sky with both hands, the way he did when he crossed the plate following one of his 540 career homers.

Ortiz said before the game that he hadn't seen the tribute but he hoped to visit the top deck at the ballpark to get a better view.

STILL CHASING

In a wide-ranging discussion in the media interview room before the series opener against the Toronto Blue Jays, Ortiz also spoke about trying to play well for the rest of the regular-season and into the playoffs. Entering Friday night's game, the Red Sox were in contention for the top seed in the AL but also in danger of being the third-best division champion, which would force them to open the postseason on the road.

The Red Sox won 11 straight games before being swept in New York this week, including a loss on Wednesday night the night they clinched the AL East for just the third time since 1995.

"We play to win," he said.

PLUS ONE

Ortiz came to bat the first time in the first inning, with two out and a runner on first.

The rain-soaked crowd stood to give him an ovation before breaking into a "Papi!" chant.

Ortiz fouled off the first four pitches from Blue Jays righty Marco Estrada, then watched one in the dirt as Brock Holt took second on the wild pitch. One more foul, and then Ortiz sliced a line drive single to left for career RBI No. 1,766 22nd on baseball's all-time list.

ON DECK

The rain-soaked pregame ceremony was brief, with bigger celebrations to come over the weekend.

The Red Sox took the time to acknowledge his charitable work, showing pictures of many of those helped by the David Ortiz Children's Fund, which provides medical care for kids in New England and the Dominican Republic. Ortiz was presented with a painting by artist Peter Max.

The big celebration is planned for Sunday, which barring a rainout would be the final regular-season game for Ortiz. The team is expecting to bring onto the field many of Ortiz's teammates from his three World Series championships.

The traditional "Play ball!" was delivered by three teens in Ortiz jerseys, who also shouted it in Spanish.

The start of the game was delayed 25 minutes.

THERE IT GOES!

Asked to pick his best moment in the ballpark, Ortiz smiled.

"I had a lot of good at-bats here at Fenway. I'm not going to lie to you," he said as reporters chuckled. "But I've got to go back to 2004 and the walkoffs."

No one needed any more explanation.

Ortiz had game-winning, extra-inning hits in back-to-back playoff games against the New York Yankees in the ALCS in '04 as Boston become the first major league team to rally from a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series. …

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