Thanks, Papi

Today is the 2,408th regular season game of David Ortiz’s career.

It’s his last regular season game, as well.

He’ll make an appearance at Fenway Park today, tip his cap to the home crowd, and probably get pulled at some point because he’s got to rest up his 40-year-old body for the playoffs.

It’s Big Papi’s last season in Major League Baseball, and what a season it’s been. He has once again helped propel the Red Sox into the postseason, hitting .317 with 38 home runs and 121 RBIs.

All that at 40 years of age.

These are hardly retirement numbers. But Ortiz is hardly you’re typical Major League Baseball player.

There are naysayers out there who will cry foul and claim Ortiz is taking PEDs. Who am I to say? Such things are rampant in professional sports and it wouldn’t surprise me either way.

I deal in the world of the facts and this fact I know: Ortiz — who has never been caught “cheating” despite being the most-tested professional baseball player in the country — is one of the greatest Red Sox players ever.

He changed the franchise, and he did it in my lifetime.

Three World Series championships in 12 years, and there is one common thread to all three titles.

Papi.

I grew up and revered the Red Sox in a time of heartbreak. Born in 1966, I lived through the Impossible Dream of 1967 (Fine, so I don’t remember it, but I lived through it), not to mention that World Series defeats of 1975 and 1986.

And 1978? He’s Bucky “Fucking” Dent for a reason, even today.

Then, in the spring of 2003, Ortiz arrived from the Minnesota Twins. He put on a Boston Red Sox uniform and, though we didn’t know it at the time, everything changed.

Hope had arrived on Yawkee Way.

One year later, after 96 years of futility, nearly a century of tears, the Red Sox were World Series champions. I still have to pinch myself to remind that season really happened.

They did it again in 2007 and a third time in 2013, which for those of us who grew up living under “The Curse of the Bambino” was unthinkable.

The titles did come with a downside, though.

Sold-out stadiums jacked up ticket prices at Fenway Park, the most historic stadium in all of baseball. And the bandwagon had become full of obnoxious young fans who thought the Red Sox deserved to be world champs every year.

I suppose they’re The Papi Generation, and this whole swelling of interest in the team could be The Papi Effect.

Now, this fall, the Red Sox are chasing a fourth World Series title, but win or lose, it’s the end of an era in Boston.

Ortiz might have three games left in his Hall-of-Fame career. (I’m not a voter, but yes he deserves it … he’s the best DH in the history of the game. Period). Maybe seven games remain. Who knows? Maybe we’ll get 19 more games — if we’re lucky and all three series go the distance with the Red Sox winning each one.

Ortiz, as a player, is going out on top and that’s great to see. Going out on top as a team would be yet another story book ending in franchise history and one that wouldn’t surprise me either. It’s been that kind of career for David Americo Arias Ortiz.

All that’s left to say before the postseason starts is this:

Thanks, Papi.

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