The year was 2004. Your team, the Red Sox, was coming off of three devastating losses in a row to a New York Yankees team that made you look like you had no business being there. It was the American League Championship Series, and the odds were stacked against you as you took the field to defend your honor and pride in front of the hometown crowd.
Through twelve innings the battle continued, until you stepped to the plate--and there was hope yet. With a swing of the bat, you lifted a team, a city, a nation--and we all knew that optimism was in order for the rest of the series. You could've measured the force of the cheers on the richter scale. The walk-off home run sealed the victory, and placed the momentous pressure back on the Yanks' bulky shoulders.
You know how the rest goes. That was just the beginning of building your reputation of hitting it where the fielders ain't at all the right times. Of course, the next night you put an end to a six hour marathon with another walk-off, this time a single. By then it was clear; if Big Papi is up with a close score late in the game, the pitcher starts wishing he had become an accountant, the opposing dugout silences and the Fenway crowd explodes. This was not your first, not your second, but your third walk-off hit of the playoffs--two of them being home runs.
You went on to unprecedentedly take the series from the embarrassed Bronx Bombers, winning four games in a row on top of your ALCS MVP shoulders. As we all know, you took the World Series easily, winning over a Cardinals squad that looked like they've never played an American League team. It was the first World Series for the Sox in 86 years, and it was pure bliss for nine year olds and ninety year olds alike. And, nobody doubted that you were the hero of the playoffs.
I was nine at the time, staying up late night after night to watch you and my beloved Red Sox in their bid to finally take a Championship. I was a kid who loved baseball, and you had been my favorite player since you started hitting it onto the Mass Pike. You were large and lovable, a slugger that was always smiling, who loved to cook and treated his fans as well as he treats his mother. As a matter of fact, for proof, I once saw you hit a grand slam in a pre-season game. I was about ten yards above you, on a high-rise; with about five other fans, me being the only ten year old present. You walked into the concealed clubhouse on the other side of the stadium, and as you walked through, I started cheering, yelling and screaming. You looked up, laughed and waved at us. It was a hero moment if any. And you were my hero, Mr. Ortiz.
As a matter of fact, I attended a game in which you hit one of your patented walk-off home runs. Do you remember June 2nd, 2005? I saw eight innings of your team's magic at Fenway, the only game that I got to attend all season, and I decided to leave early to go to my own Little League game. In the car on the way there, I listened to the broadcast of you doing what I knew you by back then--and I should have been happy about it, excited that you had done it once again, after the famous season. But I cried my eyes out, wishing I could have been there to cheer along with the rest of the Fenway Faithful, watching my favorite player toss his helmet before jumping onto home plate. I have never left a baseball game early on my own terms because of you, Mr. Ortiz.
You produced more than almost all players in the next three years after the historical season, winning another championship in 2007--while taking home four consecutive Silver Slugger awards in the process. Mr. Ortiz, you were everything that was right about baseball in an era that warranted more criticism than any other in any sport. You were the star that everyone loved, who was famous for mango salsa, charity organizations and one big smile. You were the bright spot in a league that had so many problems. And you were truly an inspiration and a role model for kids all over the U.S.--me included. Who's name-and-number tee do you think I wore five days a week despite my mom's disapproval?
But last week, I turned on SportsCenter, and my heart broke quicker than you can say homer. A report was shown that you, David Ortiz, Big Papi, had been linked to Performance Enhancing Drugs in the infamous testing of 2003. For the last six years I had believed that you were the untouchable. It didn't even cross my mind that you were juicing. When the annual test doctors came knocking, I believed you when you said, "All they're going to find is a bunch of rice and beans."
You were the first one that we couldn't just dismiss as, "Nobody really liked him anyways" like we had the luxury to do with A-Rod, Clemens, Bonds and Sosa. You were the biggest man in the world, with a personality larger than life. And with the leak of a report, you quickly became one of the smallest. I mean, David Ortiz, a cheater?
Remember all of the things you said about steroids? "If I test positive using any kind of banned substance I'm going to disrespect the game, my family, my fans and everybody. And I don't want to face the situation, so I won't use it. I'm sure everybody is on the same page... If you admitted you were using the stuff, don't use it any more. You know it's not good for you. You know it's not good for the game and let's move on, you know what I mean?" How can we know that the 2004 series was honest? What about the 2007 one?
You kept telling us how you weren't juicing if you could help it, yet this report shows otherwise. Mr. Ortiz, the only thing that people disrespect more than cheaters are liars. Please, tell the truth about everything. If you did juice, tell us. If you didn't juice, give us the truth. All you're saying for now is, "Based on the way I have lived my life, I am surprised to learn I tested positive." We're all surprised that you tested positive, David. If you're genuinely surprised, then you're saying that you didn't go on 'roids. If this ends up true, you'll be cornered in numerous amounts of your own lies. All we can ask for at the moment is the truth.
But me? I'm just hoping that it's all a big misunderstanding. I want to believe that you never juiced; I found that my first inclination was to assume the best. I mean, you're David Ortiz, you'd never do something like that! Once the details come out, if we end up getting a confession from you, I will obviously be very disappointed. I'm already disappointed. I mean, my hero's legacy is shaken, tarnished. I need to start patterning my hitting after different players. Albert Pujols. Ryan Howard. Evan Longoria. For sure, they're not juicing, right? Right?
It sucks, Mr. Ortiz. We don't know what honesty is anymore. Watching the man who in my eyes was the unshakable in the steroid situation shaken leaves my confidence in shambles. I loved watching you play while it lasted, David. I imitated your swing for fun with my buddies all of the time, even if you were a lefty and I was righthanded. Heck, at 14, I still do. You brought great joy and a great personality to baseball that was, I repeat, larger than life.Now we need to know if it was honest or not.