Tonight Boston said goodbye to one of the greatest to ever don the Red Sox uniform. David Ortiz wasn’t just a fearsome presence at the plate; he was a guy whose love of the game seemed to envelope everyone around him. He played with a passion and sense of humor you felt in the stands, and an enormity of talent that made the seemingly impossible real time and again.
And once about 10 years ago, Big Papi did something else amazing: He called me “Mami”.
We were eight hours into an interminable commercial shoot for Vitamin Water starring Ortiz and former Chicago Bear Brian Urlacher.
Perhaps you’ve seen the ad. In it, the two men are playing on a doubles badminton team presumably in the championship of a tournament in Hong Kong. It’s match point. The crowd is going crazy. Somewhere up in the rafters safely out of the shot, my dad and I are yelling and clapping on command. Again and again we break into raucous applause far out of the frame. (The Craigslist posting for extras neglected to mention that we should probably be Asian.)
We were basically the stars of the whole thing.
After eight hours of cheering and waiting and cheering and waiting, occasionally watching Urlacher or Ortiz dive for the shuttlecock or attempt a wicked spike, we broke for lunch. My dad and I saw the opportunity to end our dalliance with Hollywood, but there was just one thing I needed to do first.
“Excuse me, Papi?” I said as I waded cautiously into the Red Sox great’s conversation.
“What’s up, Mami?” David Ortiz replied.
We told him we were Bostonians, big fans. We gushed a bit ungracefully. Then we snuck out of that commercial shoot, smiles clutching our cheeks, and never looked back.
Thanks for that, Big Papi. Thanks for everything.