Monday, February 19, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays not planning special ceremony for Red Sox DH David Ortiz

BALTIMORE — As retiring Boston star David Ortiz has completed his final tour around the majors, the home teams have held onfield farewell ceremonies, given him gifts ranging from custom boots to portraits to a surfboard and made donations to his children's charity.

But when Ortiz makes his final appearance next week at the Trop, the Rays plan only a brief video tribute to be shown before the second inning of Sunday's game.

Ortiz has been coming to the Trop since the Rays started playing in 1998 and has certainly made himself at home in 118 regular-season games there, his 34 homers — including his milestone 500th — and 88 RBIs tops among visiting players.

Was that the reason for the lack of hospitality?

Rays team president Brian Auld declined to comment, saying only, "David Ortiz has had a terrific career and we are looking forward to honoring his many achievements, particularly those he's had at Tropicana Field, during his final game in St. Petersburg."

The Rays, per data compiled by the Boston Globe, will join the Braves, where Ortiz played only 16 games, as the only 2016 hosts to not present a gift or stage a ceremony.

The Rays have honored retiring visiting players in different ways, holding onfield ceremonies and providing gifts and charitable donations for Baltimore's Cal Ripken in 2001, Yankees closer Mariano Rivera in 2013 and Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter in 2014. Others such as Chipper Jones and Paul Konerko got the video-only treatment.

Ripken received a year's supply of stone crabs and a painting, Rivera a custom-made sand castle and Jeter a custom-made kayak.

But those players were sure Hall of Famers. Though Ortiz ranks 17th all time with 537 homers and 22nd with 1,755 RBIs, there will be some debate given he has been primarily a DH and there have been rumors of steroid use.

So maybe that is the reason?

That wasn't enough to stop 14 other teams from honoring Ortiz, including the Dodgers, against whom he played only three games as a visitor.

Last month in Los Angeles, they had manager Dave Roberts and broadcaster Nomar Garciaparra, former Red Sox teammates, present him a $10,000 charitable donation, with broadcaster Vin Scully narrating the ceremony.

Among some of the more creative gifts Ortiz, 40, has gotten:

White Sox: A custom-made humidor loaded with cigars.

Royals: A portrait, clubhouse chair from the 2012 All-Star Game and gift box of barbecue sauces.

Giants: A San Francisco cable car bell.

Twins: A $10,000 donation and a large jar of peanut butter referencing a prank when he played there.

Rangers: Custom-made belt buckle and goat leather boots, one inscribed "Big" and the other "Papi."

Mariners: His first pro contract framed, a team photo of his 1996 Class A squad and 34 pounds of king salmon.

Padres: Custom-painted surfboard showing Ortiz at the All-Star Game in San Diego.

Blue Jays: A $10,000 charitable donation and a pair of red Canada Goose parkas.

Or maybe it's just that Ortiz plays for the Red Sox, a team the Rays consider their biggest rival and one that principal owner Stuart Sternberg relishes beating and makes occasional cracks about.

But even the archrival Yankees will honor Ortiz. Thursday, they announced plans to have a ceremony before the Sept. 29 game even though the teams could be battling for a playoff berth.

"Guys have been through it, and we understand why it takes place," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He's been a great player for a long, long time, and he's been really good for the game of baseball."

Then again, a Yankees fan has started a website, moonbigpapi.com, suggesting the people in the stands offer a tribute that is a bit more cheeky.

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected].

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