Every baseball fan knows about David Ortiz's rise from relative obscurity on the Minnesota Twins' bench to the clean-up spot of the World Champion Boston Red Sox, but Big Papi provides a look into the emotional roller coaster that each MLB player takes a ride on at some point in their careers. For instance, Ortiz's first taste of Major League action came when he tried out for scouts of the then-expansion Florida Marlins in the Dominican Republic. As Ortiz was unaccustomed to playing baseball on a regular basis (his only experience at this point, as a 16-year old, was playing with the neighborhood kids in his town), he injured his wrist and, as a result, became an unattractive option for the Marlins.
After this immediate let-down, Ortiz was signed as a 16-year old by the Seattle Mariners. During his time with the Mariners, Ortiz recalls seeing evidence of Seattle's willingness to rush young talent to the Majors through the arrivals of Ken Griffey Junior and Alex Rodriguez. In some cases, the Mariners' hyped talent was traded for proven veterans rather than called-up to Seattle. In 1996, Ortiz was one such expendable commodity as he was shipped to the Twins as a "player to be named" for Third baseman Dave Hollins. Though Ortiz was upset to be leaving the Mariners, he recalls that he was also excited because he was "wanted."
In 1997, after not making it past Double-A with the Mariners' organization, Ortiz blew through the entire Twins' Farm System and got the call to the Majors for the first time in his career. Once there, however, Ortiz was constantly tinkered with by coaches and managers (specifically Tom Kelly), who wanted him to go the other way and hit line drives rather than do what he does best: mash. As much of a problem as Ortiz had with the Twins front office and management, he recalls having a great bond with his teammates. Specifically, Tony Massarotti details his relationship with Torii Hunter, a teammate of Ortiz's both in the minor and major leagues.
In the "Stepping Out of the Box" chapters, authored by Massarotti, the book takes a different tone. The most comparable sports work that I can relate it to is the style that Buster Olney writes Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty. The behind-the-scenes approach to Ortiz's years in the Minnesota Farm System, the Majors with Boston, and in the front offices of the
Twins and Red Sox really do a great job filling in the specifics of Ortiz's (at times) vague descriptions of events and details.
One event that Ortiz does shed a great deal of light on is his release from Minnesota. According to Ortiz, it was Pedro Martinez, formerly of the Red Sox, who convinced Theo Epstein to bring Ortiz into the Red Sox organization. Not only did Pedro help bring Big Papi to the Sox, but he also fought with former Boston skipper Grady Little about inserting Ortiz into the line-up whenever he toed the rubber.
As Ortiz points out so many times in Big Papi, it's hard to imagine what things would have been like had he not spoken to Pedro on the night of his release.
In the end, Big Papi is a quick, easy read and is definitely something to consider during the Summer month while baseball is in the air. After reading the book, I can't help but feel bad for David Ortiz when thinking about the two MVPs (2005 & 2006) that he lost out on virtually due to his standing as a Designated-Hitter. The book gives an honest representation of one of the most likable guys in the game, no matter what team you pull for.