David Ortiz promised that he would speak from the heart. And “Big Papi” delivered.
Smiling beaming and overflowing with emotion, the former Boston Red Sox slugger was inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday — in a ceremony in which his daughter Alexandra sang the national anthem.
Covering themselves with umbrellas and waving Dominican flags, legions of fans congregated on a field adjacent to the Clark Sports Center. Ortiz’s number 34 seemed to be in every corner.
They came to see the fourth fourth Dominican baseball player with a plaque hanging on the walls of the museum of baseball legends in Cooperstown.
“Thank you always for being the Quisqueya, the beautiful one. Nothing compared to that,” Ortiz proclaimed.
When he took the stage for his speech on a sunny afternoon, Ortiz pointed heavenward, the same gesture for his special moments to pay tribute to his late mother who died two decades ago in a car accident.
“I want to thank God for giving me the opportunity to be here and for having given me the joy of having walked this path, this path that allowed me to be here today and hopefully it will be an inspiration so that everyone can believe in themselves,” said Ortiz.
The deafening chorus of “Daddy! Daddy!” boomed.
“I’ve always tried to live in a way that has a positive influence on the world,” said Ortiz, who at 46 became just the 58th player chosen in his first year on the ballot. “And if my story serves as a reminder, let it be that when you believe in someone you can change the world, you can change their future, as so many believed in me.”
Ortiz entered Cooperstown three years after he was seriously injured in a nightclub shooting in the Dominican Republic. Doctors removed his gallbladder and part of his intestines.
He follows in the footsteps of Juan Marichal, Pedro Martínez and Vladimir Guerrero, the other Dominicans in the Hall of Fame.
Also on Sunday, Tony Oliva and Minnie Miñoso — the latter posthumously — joined four other Cubans: Martín Dihigo, José Méndez, Tony Pérez and Cristóbal Torriente.
Oliva and Miñoso were part of a group of six figures selected by committees of the eras. The others were Jim Kaat, Oliva’s teammate with the Minnesota Twins; former Mets star and manager Gil Hodges; and Buck O’Neil and Bud Fowler, both pioneers of the Negro leagues.
In 14 years with the Red Sox, Ortiz hit 500 home runs — 17 in the postseason.