BOSTON -- David Ortiz presents two very distinct faces to the world, and before the game, the Big Papi smile shone through the steady rain as he was feted in the first of three pregame ceremonies built in his honor this weekend. About 20 kids who have benefited from his work with hospitals lined up on the field, arranged from shortest to tallest, and Ortiz grinned as he greeted each of them with a handshake, and when that was over, Ortiz approached a security guard assigned to stand in front of the Red Sox dugout -- a familiar face -- and slapped him on the shoulder and chatted jovially.
But the face that he presented to Blue Jays pitchers throughout this rain-soaked game was very, very different, almost angry with concentration, all the way through the big, timely swing that devastated Toronto reliever Brett Cecil and served as a crossroad for the Jays team desperately trying to find its way back to the playoffs.
Earlier this year, back in April, Ortiz chatted in the visitors dugout in Houston about all the knowledge he feels he has accumulated as a hitter, and if you were to paraphrase what he said, the best interpretation might be this: It’s too bad youth is wasted on the young. Ortiz feels the age in his feet and legs, feels it every time he hits a ball in the gap and realizes that he needs to run hard to second base. His favorite type of double, he joked recently, was the ball that skips into the stands. Age is taking its toll on him, and he knows this is the time to walk away.
But that day in Houston, Ortiz talked about how much he has learned during his career and how he can wield that knowledge. Victor Rodriguez, Boston’s assistant hitting coach, said that not only has Ortiz compiled mental data banks on opposing pitchers but also on others who are in the chain of command of each pitch.
“He knows how the catchers want to pitch to him,” said Rodriguez, mentioning the Jays’ Russell Martin, Brian McCann, Matt Wieters and others in the AL East. “He knows how the managers want to approach him [in important situations].”