Chants of “Big Papi” took over Fenway Park on Monday as the Boston Red Sox paid tribute to David Ortiz in his last opening day in the iconic stadium.
The Dominican slugger, who has donned the Red Sox jersey for 14 years, has been the hero of three World Series titles, and on Monday the crowd gave him a standing ovation, but it was watching his 15-year-old daughter Alexandra sing the national anthem that got him choked up.
“I was nervous. I was dying,” Ortiz said after the game, which Baltimore won 9-7. “I was more nervous during that than during any at-bat in my entire career. It wasn't about me. It was about her. Whoever has kids knows how that goes, when you're watching your kid perform in anything. That was like my first big moment watching one of my children just doing something pretty big.”
Alexandra singing the anthem was actually a surprise for her old man – she practiced while he was away in Florida at spring training and on a season-opening road trip to Cleveland and Toronto.
"It was a surprise, a beautiful surprise," Ortiz said, according to ESPN. “At some point, you start thinking about your kids and the way you raise your kids and everything that you've been through. I got caught into those memories, and it was beautiful.”
When she was through, Ortiz went wrapped her in an emotional hug.
“He said to me, ‘Don’t ever surprise me like that again,’” she told the press. “I wanted him to be emotional. Somebody told me that he cried, and I was like, 'Yes!' I didn't know if that was a terrible thing.”
The Red Sox asked their fans to imagine a world without David Ortiz, then spent the rest of the day reminding the city what he has meant to the franchise.
Opening the festivities with highlights from Ortiz's career accompanied by John Lennon's "Imagine," the Red Sox celebrated their designated hitter, who is retiring after the 2016 season.
Hockey and basketball Hall of Famers Bobby Orr and Bill Russell, along with Patriots defensive back Ty Law, shared the pitcher's mound with Ortiz for the ceremonial first pitch. Then former teammates Pedro Martínez, Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek joined him to shout "Play Ball!"
Ortiz lined an RBI single off the left-field wall in his first at-bat. He flied out to right in his second, then struck out and then doubled off the Green Monster. With Boston trailing 9-7 in the ninth inning, Ortiz was up with runners on first and second and nobody out with the sold-out crowd chanting, "Papi!"
"Possibly the set-up for the dramatic moment," manager John Farrell said after the game. "He's risen to the occasion so many times."
But it wasn't to be. The Mighty Ortiz didn't strike out, instead he bounced the ball to Jonathan Schoop at second base for a rally-killing double play.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.