Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Zero to Hero!

Okay, so maybe Big Papi was never a zero... but he sure came close this April, scuffling is such an epic manner that some Boston-area scribes were calling for his release. David Ortiz took that criticism and made it his motivation, getting hot in May and staying that way, leading to his sixth All-Star selection, and fourth time in the Home Run Derby.

The guys on MLBNetwork called David "the Susan Lucci of the Home Run Derby," referring to the All My Children star who has been oft-nominated for an Emmy, but won just once (she's 1-for-21). Papi's success rate is now much higher, as he's batting .250 in Derby wins after a 32 homer performance last night.

One subplot was that David chose Yankees' bench coach Tony Pena as his pitcher, though no one seemed to think it was a big deal. Pena, there accompanying Joe Girardi, AL Manager, and pitching to Nick Swisher in the derby, didn't bat an eyelash at pitching to the Red Sox slugger. The boys from ESPN summed it up well when they surmised "This isn't a Red Sox/Yankees thing; this is a Dominican thing."

Things sure worked out for the proud people of the Dominican republic, as the final round saw two of their own battling it out for top honors, as Ortiz went up against former Red Sox farmhand and current Marlins superstar Hanley Ramirez (who says the Sox can't produce power?). Ramirez told ESPN's Erin Andrews that Papi "was like a father figure" to him in his days in the Sox system, mentoring him and giving advice to a young player with obvious talent but questionable work ethic.

For his part, Papi confirmed that Ramirez was "like a son" to him, that he always knew Hanley would be a superstar: “I wish Hanley would be playing on our team, like he was supposed to,’’ said the slugger, while acknowledging that the trade had worked out for both sides. David even went so far as to come out and advise the young Ramirez in the middle of the final round, bearing a towel, a sports drink, and his trademarked smile.

The encouragement wasn't enough for the young short stop to eke out a win against Papi, but he put up a strong showing. If there are baseball gods, they couldn't have scripted this better. David Ortiz was counted out on April 31, 2010, and some had written him off even earlier. But Papi knew better - and he proved that he's far from done, illustrating the wise words of Torii Hunter: “You have to know what’s in his heart and you have to understand how much pride he has. He’s too young to be done.’’

Zero to Home Run Derby Hero, indeed.

Sorry, couldn't resist.

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