Big Papi comes up big in community
Clemente Award candidate helps from Boston to Dominican
During his time with the Boston Red Sox -- which is closing in on five full seasons -- David Ortiz has been Big Papi and Mr. Clutch. He's been a certifiable force with the game and/or season on the line.
But another story has emerged during that time which has not received the same recognition as his late-game heroics. Be it the Dominican Republic or Boston or several places in between, Ortiz has been a pillar of strength when it comes to giving back to the community.
This is why, for the second consecutive season, Ortiz has been selected as the Red Sox's nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award.
The award recognizes the player who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual's contribution to his team. It is named in honor of the former Pirates outfielder whose spirit and goodwill will always be remembered. Clemente died in a plane crash while attempting to transport relief supplies to earthquake-stricken Nicaragua on Dec. 31, 1972. The winner will be announced during the World Series.
"He's amazing with all he does," Vanessa Leyvas, the director of community relations for the Red Sox, said of Ortiz's community service.
Considering the way Ortiz's personality lights up the Red Sox, it isn't surprising that he often comes to the aid of those in need.
"He's off the charts," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "I think he transcends cultural barriers, things like that. He's got that smile, that infectious enthusiasm."
After hitting his 50th homer on Sept. 20, 2006, to tie Jimmie Foxx's team record, Ortiz immediately thought of a way to use his individual accomplishment to serve a worthy cause. So he donated the baseball to charitable endeavors.
"My mind is focused right now on helping people out there that need help," said Ortiz. "I've met a lot of children who need help, especially from myself and everyone else around here. I'm very involved. Whatever it takes to help children, I'm very into it."
In being selected as Boston's Roberto Clemente Award nominee, Ortiz has chosen the Lindos Suenos Project as the benefiting charity.
Lindos Suenos translates to "Beautiful Dreams." The program, which was funded by a philanthropist from the Boston area, is one in which teens of various backgrounds from the United States go to the Dominican Republic for two weeks and work with Dominican teens to refurbish buildings and baseball fields. At night, the youths play baseball together.
Because Ortiz has chosen Lindos Suenos, MLB will place a $7,500 donation in his name to the program. If Ortiz winds up winning the Clemente Award for all of Major League Baseball, the donation will increase to $30,000.
Last winter, Ortiz went back to the Dominican Republic and donated $200,000 to a Santo Domingo hospital.
"I have kids. I have a family. I have children," Ortiz said. "You have to put yourself in that situation and look in the mirror and talk to yourself about how sad it is to see children have problems."
When Ortiz talks about underprivileged people, he gets emotional.
"There are a lot of people who need help from people like us," Ortiz said. "Hopefully, the athlete who has the capacity to collect money to help people will do it. Sometimes, we have no idea how many people we help around this planet. I am very excited about what I am doing, and I'm going to keep doing it as long as a I can. ... They need it and I want to help them out. People need help, and basically, if you can afford to do something to help somebody out, I don't mind."
Whether it is in the dugout or in the community, Ortiz has a unique way about him.
"I think he's a team uniter," said Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell. "That's very important. I think good teams need that. I think when one of your superstars is that guy, it allows you to have a very good clubhouse. He's a guy who gets along with everyone. He's always fun loving, he's always in good spirits. Guys like to see that.
"They don't like seeing guys who are always upset and mad at the world. We're playing baseball. We should be happy. That's great that he does that."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.