BOSTON (AP) — The Red Sox asked their fans to imagine a world without David Ortiz, then spent the rest of the day reminding the city what he has meant to the franchise.
Opening the festivities with John Lennon’s “Imagine” accompanying highlights from Ortiz’s career, the Red Sox celebrated their retiring designated hitter before Monday’s home opener. Then, the hero of three World Series titles came to the plate as the potential winning run in the ninth inning, only to hit into a double play.
“Everybody’s hoping for the best at that point. Everybody’s confident he’s going to do what he’s always done,” said Mookie Betts, who hit a leadoff homer in the ninth to cut a three-run deficit to two. “He put a good swing on it. They were just able to make a play.”
Ortiz received a standing ovation when he was introduced before the game, with the public address announcer commending his “unforgettable and unrepeatable oratory” after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing that was followed by the franchise’s third title since 1918.
Ortiz then stood along the first-base line while his 15-year-old daughter, Alex, sang the national anthem.
“I was nervous. I was dying,” Ortiz said after the game, which Baltimore won 9-7. “I was more nervous during that than during any at-bat in my entire career. It wasn’t about me. It was about her.”
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Hall of Famers Bobby Orr and Bill Russell, along with Patriots defensive back Ty Law, shared the pitcher’s mound with Ortiz for the ceremonial first pitch. Then former teammates Pedro Martinez, Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek joined him to shout “Play Ball!”
Ortiz lined an RBI single off the left-field wall in his first at-bat. He flied out to right in his second, then struck out and then doubled off the Green Monster. With Boston trailing 9-7 in the ninth inning, Ortiz was up with runners on first and second and nobody out and the sold-out crowd chanting: “Papi!”
“Possibly the setup for the dramatic moment,” manager John Farrell said after the game. “He’s risen to the occasion so many times.”
But Ortiz grounded into a double play, and Hanley Ramirez ended the game with a strikeout.
After finishing last for the third time in four seasons, the Red Sox returned to Fenway Park on Monday after starting the season with three wins, two losses and a rainout on a season-opening trip to Cleveland and Toronto. Because of the rain, new acquisition David Price was pushed back in the rotation to start the home opener.
Price was greeted with cheers, but 2015 free agent Pablo Sandoval was booed when he was introduced. Sandoval, who signed a $95 million, five-year contract before the 2015 season, lost his third base job this spring to Travis Shaw, who made his big league debut last May.
Fans had a better reception for Farrell, who missed the final six weeks of last season after being diagnosed with cancer. Farrell’s doctors declared him cancer-free during the winter.
The team also observed a moment of silence for members of the organization who died over the offseason, including longtime third baseman and coach Frank Malzone and outfielder Dave Henderson, whose two-out, two-strike homer in the deciding game of the 1986 AL Championship Series sent the Red Sox to the World Series.
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