George Hale reflects on Big Papi

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IN THE YEARS I'VE BEEN INVOLVED IN SPORTS I'VE STAYED AWAY FROM ATTACHING MYSELF TO INDIVIDUAL ATHLETES. PRO SPORTS PLAYERS COME AND GO WITH OUR FAVORITE TEAMS BUT IN REALITY WILL WEAR SEVERAL UNIFORMS IN THEIR CAREERS.
OF COURSE WE LIKE SOME ATHLETES MORE THAN OTHERS BUT ALWAYS WITH THE FULL KNOWLEDGE THEY ARE JUST " RENTED" FOR A TIME.
THERE ARE EXCEPTIONS OF COURSE.
A FEW RISE ABOVE THE REST AND A CITY OR STATE SIMPLY IDENTIFIES WITH THEM AND CONSIDER THE PLAYER AS IF HE OR SHE IS FAMILY.
DAVID ORTIZ FALLS INTO THAT CATEGORY OF A SPECIAL PERSON.

Former Boston Red Sox player David Ortiz was shot while at an entertainment center in his native Dominican Republic, according to his father. (Source: Boston Red Sox/Facebook/MGN)

WE ALL KNOW WHAT HAPPENED IN SANTO DOMINGO LAST SUNDAY NIGHT.
AN ASSAILANT SHOT THE MAN WE CALL " BIG PAPI" FROM BEHIND AND CAUSED THE FORMER RED SOX PLAYER TO SUFFER POTENTIAL LIFE THREATENING INJURIES.
TO OUR RELIEF PAPI WAS GIVEN EMERGENCY CARE IN HIS HOME COUNTRY AND THEN FLOWN TO BOSTON WHERE HE IS NOW RECOVERING.
BOSTON, AND MOST OF NEW ENGLAND, WERE FOCUSED ON GAME 6 OF THE STANLEY CUP FINALS WHEN THE NEWS BROKE.
SUDDENLY NOT MUCH ELSE MATTERED INCLUDING THE BRUINS GAME.
ONE OF OUR OWN HAD BEEN ATTACKED VICIOUSLY.
A MEMBER OF THE FAMILY WAS DOWN.

YOU SEE, DAVID ORDTIZ IS ONE OF THOSE FEW ATHLETES WHO ARE REVERED IN THE CITY WHERE THEY SPENT SO MUCH OF THEIR CAREER.
HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN TO SUCH AN IDOL OF THE PEOPLE?
BOSTON IS THE TOWN WHERE A BRIDGE BEARS HIS NAME.
THIS BASEBALL-CRAZY CITY WHERE HE LED THE RED SOX TO WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONSHIPS IN 2004, 2007 AND 2013.
BIG PAPI AND HIS BAND OF PLAYERS ENDED AN 86 YEAR DROUGHT AND BROKE THE CURSE OF THE BABE.
HE DID CHARITY WORK AND WAS A FAMILY MAN WHO LOVED THE CITY.
A HERO IN HIS HOME COUNTRY WHERE HE REMAINS A SYMBOL OF NATIONAL PRIDE.

ON MY DESK I HAVE A COPY OF HIS AUTOBIOGDRAPHY " PAPI: MY STORY", A GIFT FROM MY DAUGHTER.
IN PAGES OF THE BOOK HE TALKS OF THE VIOLENCE IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC.
OUTLINED ARE THE INCIDENTS OF MURDER, VIOLENCE AND CRIME HE WITNESSED AS A CHILD.
HE SAW THINGS OUR KIDS ARE NEVER SUBJECTED TO.
FOR ORTIZ BASEBALL WAS A WAY OUT.
HE WAS A BIG KID WHO HAD NEVER RIDDEN ON A PLANE UNTIL HE SIGNED WITH SEATTLE AND WENT OFF TO PLAY WINTER BALL.

THE REST OF THE STORY IS WELL KNOWN.
WHEN THE TWINS RELEASED HIM HE SIGNED WITH BOSTON BUT NO ONE COULD IMAGINE WHAT WOULD TRANPIRE AFTER THAT.
THERE WERE TIMES PAPI WOULD CARRY THE TEAM AND ALL OF THE FANS ON HIS VERY LARGE SHOULDERS.
BUT EVEN BEYOND WHAT HE DID ON THE FIELD THERE IS ONE NON-BASEBALL EVENT THAT WILL FOREVER BE INGRAINED IN THE MINDS OF NEW ENGLANDERS.
SIX YEARS AGO, WHEN BOSTON WAS REELING FROM THE AFTERMATH OF THE MARATHON BOMBING, IT WAS BIG PAPI WHO IN TYPICAL FASHION PULLED THE AREA TOGETHER. HE WENT TO THE MOUND AT FENWAY PARK TAKING THE MICROPHONE AND EXCLAIMED "THIS IS OUR (BLANK) CITY."
WITH ONE SIMPLE SENTENCE, WHICH REVERBERATED AROUND THE COUNTRY, BOSTON BECAME HEALED AND STRONG.

SO WHEN WE REFLECT ON THE ATTACK OF LAST SUNDAY WE ARE THANKFUL FOR HIS PRESENCE IN OUR NEW ENGLAND LIFE.
THE COWARDS WHO SHOT HIM DIDN'T JUST ATTACK BIG PAPI.
THEY ATTACKED EVERY ONE OF US WHO LIVE HERE BECAUSE DAVID ORTIZ WAS, AND IS, ONE OF US.

THIS IS GEORGE HALE WITH MY PERSPECTIVE ON SPORTS.