BOSTON — David Ortiz made a Hall of Fame career out of staring down pitchers with the game on the line.
Looking out at the Cooperstown crowd for his induction speech – that’s a whole different story.
“I can’t wait for it to be over with,” the longtime Red Sox slugger said this month as he looked ahead to his July 24 enshrinement ceremony. “I’m freaking out about the whole thing. Too much. Too much going on.”
A 10-time All-Star who helped Boston win three World Series championships, Ortiz became the 58th first-ballot Hall of Famer when he was the only player elected by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Era committee selections Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva, Bud Fowler and Buck O’Neil will join him in the Class of 2022.
Ortiz batted .286 and hit 541 home runs with 1,768 RBIs in a 20-year career with the Red Sox and Twins. He also had a .289 average with 17 homers and 61 RBIs in nine postseasons — batting .688 to earn MVP honors in the 2013 World Series.
Among all those hits were game-winners that earned him a reputation as one of the most clutch hitters in baseball history, including back-to-back, extra-inning walk-offs in Games 4 and 5 of the 2004 AL championship series against the Yankees, when the Red Sox became the first major league team to overcome a 0-3 deficit in a best-of-seven series. They went on to sweep St. Louis in the World Series for their first title since 1918.
To Ortiz, that was just part of being a ballplayer.
“I’m not saying it’s easy. But you get used to it,” he said. “I had a 20-year career. That was expected. You don’t expect to be on a podium being inducted into the Hall of Fame any day.”
Adding to the stress: He will be working the July 19 All-Star Game in Los Angeles for Fox.
“I’ve never had so much on my plate,” he said. “I’m a guy that’s good at handling things. But it’s a lot.”
Ortiz said he hadn’t made much progress on what he will say at the induction ceremony but that he mostly wanted to thank people who helped him along the way.
“My speech is not going to be anything crazy. It’s not going to be anything to take me three hours,” he said. “I have some significant people in my life and my career.”
The soon-to-be Hall of Famer spoke to The Associated Press to discuss his new eyeglass line. The Zenni glasses feature names like “Santo Domingo” and “PapiVision” and even “Gold Glove” for the player who never won one of those and spent more time as designated hitter than any previous Cooperstown inductee.