On Sunday, David Ortiz will experience a moment that Alex Rodriguez likely won’t ever encounter. Ortiz, the former Boston Red Sox star, will officially be enshrined into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Rodriguez was on the ballot but fell well short of the required votes to get in, despite putting up Hall of Fame numbers.
Ortiz and Rodriguez are close — always have been. In fact, in 2010, when Ortiz was concerned the Sox might release him after an ugly 2009 season and a tough start to 2010, it was A-Rod who came to his rescue.
David Ortiz is a first-ballot Hall of Famer
Ortiz doesn’t take it for granted that he’s in the Hall of Fame. The former Sox slugger has the numbers to show he belongs, but so did many other on the ballot.
Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Curt Schilling also have the numbers, but they didn’t have the respect of the voters like Ortiz. Many of those players from the late 1980s and 1990s are tied to performance-enhancing drugs, and it proved costly during voting time. Clemens, Bonds, and Schilling were on the ballot for the 10th and final time. Ortiz made it in his first year, something he doesn’t take lightly.
“I saw so many great players and they didn’t get in on the first ballot. It’s a wonderful honor to be able to get in on my first rodeo, it’s something very special to me,” said Ortiz when the results were announced in January, per MLB.com. “I can’t imagine how New England feels about one of their players getting into the Hall of Fame today.
“I’m not even going to tell you about the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic is a country that breathes baseball and everyone is going crazy right now. It’s amazing. It’s amazing to be part of this pack on the first ballot. It’s something very special.”
Ortiz had some help from Rodriguez when times were tough
Throw that whole Red Sox/Yankees rivalry out the window in this case. Ortiz and Rodriguez have been friends since their late teens, meeting during instructional ball in 1993.
“How long have we been close?” asked Rodriguez, per Chad Finn of The Boston Globe. “Let’s put it this way. I didn’t just know him before he was Big Papi. I knew him when he was David Arias.”
Their relationship grew throughout their time in Major League Baseball — even when Rodriguez played for the rival Yankees.
“When he would come to New York at the height of the rivalry, he would come to my house and have dinner,” Rodriguez said. “And when I struggled, he would give me batting lessons and talk about the mental side.”
The tables turned in 2010. Ortiz hit .238, a career-low with Boston, in 2019. He got off to a rough start in 2010, hitting .200 in mid-May. He thought the Sox might release him. That’s when A-Rod helped him change a few things.
“And then years later, when he got a little bit overweight and he struggled, I basically went in to his house, looked in his fridge, and sat down and helped him change his complete diet,” Rodriguez said. “We thought the Red Sox might be on the verge of releasing him, and he was starting to think about playing somewhere else and getting his career back on track.
“So throughout our careers, it’s been very back and forth about how we helped each other out.”
Ortiz played six more seasons after that struggle. Now, he’s got a new home in Cooperstown.