NEW YORK -- David Ortiz was one of the more popular players at Monday’s All-Star Game media availability, attracting a large crowd of reporters throughout. Dressed snazzily and wearing sunglasses, Ortiz laughed and smiled often, handling questions in English and Spanish, on everything from the Hall of Fame to playing for the nearby Double-A New Britain Rock Cats way back in 1997.
His favorite memory of New Britain? Being late for a game because he had to wait for a family of ducks to cross the road. Ortiz was a little more serious when talking about his potential to wind up in Cooperstown.
“That’s something, to be honest with you, I don’t really think about,” Ortiz said. “I’m just proud of myself for doing what I do. I’m happy to be here.
“I’m just going to keep putting up numbers and doing what I have to do as long as I play. If they decide that I’m in, I’m in. If they don’t, I’m happy too. I think I had a really good career through the years.”
The 37-year-old is a career .286 hitter, with 420 home runs and 1,391 runs batted in. He is 48th on the all-time home run list, and last Wednesday became baseball’s career leader in hits as a designated hitter with 1,689, passing Harold Baines.
Ortiz played in just 90 games last year due to injury, and just once in Boston’s final 72 games. He missed the first 15 games of this year as well, but has put together a fine season since. Since making his debut on April 20, he is hitting .317 with 19 home runs and 65 runs batted in. He’s tied for 11th in the AL in home runs and tied for seventh in RBIs.
His team is enjoying a bounce-back season too, going from last place (69-93 in 2012) to first place, currently sporting the best record in the American League (58-39).
“We don’t have tons of guys with [big] names like we used to back in the day,” Ortiz said. “But we have guys hungry, we have guys hustling, we have guys taking it personally, and that’s how you win ballgames.
“Plus our manager, John (Farrell), he’s doing a hell of a job with all of us. If you watch our batting practice, John is going around asking everybody, ‘How do you feel? How are you doing?’ In that conversation he kind of figures out what he can expect from you that day. When you have your manager coming to you and asking you that kind of question, you definitely want to give him 100 percent.”
The Red Sox are currently 2.5 games ahead of Tampa Bay, 4.5 games ahead of Baltimore and 6 ahead of the injury-riddled Yankees.
“That’s crazy,” when asked about the Yankees and their injuries. “I’m the kind of person, I like competition. And that’s the competition. And I’m pretty sure that they feel the same way, when they watched our team last year struggle, and not being able to have a team that can compete. What can I tell you? It’s part of the game.”
This is Ortiz’s ninth All-Star appearance. He first made the AL squad back in 2004 and has made it every year since, except for 2009.
“It’s great,” Ortiz said. “Last year, being in the All-Star Game by myself, it was kind of like -- I get along pretty much with everybody, but I’m kind of used to coming to the All-Star Game with my teammates. Being by myself, it was kind of boring.”
“I can have a team photo this year,” Ortiz added. “Last year I was all by myself, I didn’t take any pictures.”