David Ortiz confirms impending retirement on 40th birthday
Boston fan favourite has hit 503 homers, won 3 World Series
Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz is planning to retire after the 2016 season.
The Dominican slugger said in a video posted on The Players' Tribune on Wednesday, his 40th birthday, that he will play one more season.
"Life is based on different chapters, and I think I am ready to experience the next one in my life," he told his fans in the video. "I wish I could play another 40 years, so I could have you guys behind me, but it doesn't work that way. After this year, time is up. So let's enjoy the season."
Ortiz's plans were first reported by Fox Sports on Tuesday.
Ortiz led the Red Sox to three championships, hitting 503 homers in a career full of clutch at-bats while in the process establishing himself as the catalyst that turned a long-downtrodden franchise into a big-market bully.
Already treasured for his big hits and even bigger personality, Ortiz further cemented himself in the city's lore after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings that killed three people and injured hundreds more. Taking the microphone before the ballclub's first game back, Ortiz told a Fenway crowd that included the governor and top police officials: "This is our [expletive] city. And nobody's going to dictate our freedom."
Warning: Video contains explicit language
"He's given all of our fans so much reason to cheer," Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said on Wednesday. "I've got a lot of respect for him and the way that he's always, I think, brought a great leadership to his team. He's been a great example."
Ortiz batted .688 in the 2013 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals and was named the Series MVP. But his greatest contribution to the team's success came in the 2004 playoffs, when Boston ended its 86-year dynasty of disappointment.
Big Papi, as his teammates and Boston fans came to call him, had consecutive game-ending hits in extra innings of Games 4 and 5 of the AL championship series against the Yankees as the Red Sox became the first major league team to overcome a 0-3 deficit in a best-of-seven post-season series. The Red Sox went on to sweep St. Louis in the World Series for their first title since 1918.
"It is difficult to adequately convey what David Ortiz has meant to the Boston Red Sox," team owner John Henry said in a statement. "For those of us who have had the honour of knowing him all these years, he has been exactly what you hope to see in a man who has been the face of this organization."
Ortiz stuck around for two more titles — the only member of the '04 team that was still around in 2013, when he had 11 hits in the first five games before the Cardinals walked him four times in the clincher.
Platoon player turned star
After playing six semi-productive seasons with the Minnesota Twins, who released him after the 2002 season, Ortiz came to Boston as an unknown platoon first baseman, found a spot at designated hitter and emerged as one of the best sluggers in baseball history.
In all, he enters his final season with a .284 average, 2,303 hits, 584 doubles and 1,641 RBIs. In 82 post-season games, including nine with the Twins, he batted .295 with 17 homers and 60 RBIs.
His 445 with the Red Sox is the third-most in franchise history behind Ted Williams' 521 and the 452 hit by Carl Yastrzemski. He is 27th on baseball's career homer list, one behind Eddie Murray.
The 447 homers he hit while in the lineup as a DH is the most since the position was established in 1973. He was been named the AL's designated hitter of the year a record seven times, surpassing the five won by Edgar Martinez, for whom the award is named.
"He is one of the game's greatest players — and greatest champions — and he has been there for the city of Boston through thick and thin every step of the way," Red Sox President Sam Kennedy said. "He has been a pillar of our team and a pillar of our city. "We look forward to a final season of raising our heads to the sky looking for his long-ball, and watching him point to the heavens when he arrives home one final time."