When David Ortiz was released by the Minnesota Twins after the 2002 MLB season, it was Pedro Martinez who told the Boston Red Sox that they needed to sign the slugger, whom Martinez remembered from a fearsome home run Ortiz had hit off him months earlier.
The Red Sox listened to their Cy Young pitcher and signed Ortiz to a non-guaranteed contract for the 2003 season.
Less than two years later, the two were teammates on a Red Sox team that achieved something never seen before in MLB history: they battled back from a 3-0 deficit to defeat the New York Yankees in the 2004 ALCS. Days later, they ended an 86-year World Series drought, bringing glory back to Boston.
So it’s fitting that, on Tuesday night, Martinez stood with his hand on Ortiz’s shoulder as he answered his phone and took a call from Cooperstown.
And when Ortiz heard that he was going into the Hall of Fame, Martinez was the first person in the room to receive a hug from the greatest clutch hitter in Red Sox history.
When Ortiz spoke to MLB Network, Martinez was among the first people he credited with getting him to this moment, saying the legendary pitcher is “Like a father to me… He took me to the Red Sox when I had no job.”
Ortiz also released a statement after the announcement that, again, gave credit to Martinez.
And despite being with Ortiz when he got the call, Martinez also recorded a video message for him:
Congratulations Big Papi! Welcome to Cooperstown! It’s an honor to have been your teammate and to be your brother! I’m so proud of you!
Felicidades Big Papi! Bienvenido a Cooperstown! Es un honor haber sido tu compañero de equipo y ser tu hermano. Felicidades compa! Que orgullo! pic.twitter.com/KrbD0IZrRR
— Pedro Martinez (@45PedroMartinez) January 26, 2022
David Ortiz: Pedro Martinez is ‘like a father to me’
Without Martinez, it’s safe to say that there is no Big Papi in Boston. There is no David Ortiz Bridge over the Mass Turnpike, no 34 hanging among the retired numbers at America’s Most Beloved Ballpark, no David Ortiz Gate at Boston’s Logan Airport.
Maybe there aren’t three shining Commissioner’s Trophies, three more banners, three glittering rings.
Maybe 2004, 2007, and 2013 are just among the many years of baseball that began in hope and ended in heartache.
Maybe there’s still a Curse of the Bambino, waiting to be reversed.
Ortiz and Martinez are linked in many ways. They share the distinction of being two of four Dominican-born Hall of Famers and two of five Sox players elected in their first year of the ballot. Of course, they wear matching 2004 World Series rings. Now, they’ll have matching Hall of Fame jackets, too.
All because Martinez ran into Ortiz at a restaurant in the Dominican Republic 20 years ago.
There are a million reasons why it’s amazing that Ortiz is going into the Hall. But knowing he’ll be enshrined with Martinez, that hits different.