Ahhh Spring Training, a time for players to rise and stretch after a season of rest. It is a time for veterans to begin the season with a clean slate, and gives rookies an opportunity to make a name for themselves.
But perhaps the best part of Spring Training is watching a generation rise up to take its rightful place. After all, like Closing Time suggests, every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.
And who else has had a better beginning, middle, and end than David Ortiz? Big Papi has been the heart and soul of the Boston Red Sox for the past 14 years. #34 has an enormous smile and even bigger heart, and brought a spark to the team that will undoubtedly be incredibly missed.
But the 40-year old hung up his jersey after an emotional departure last season, leaving the designated hitter spot wide open. Who could possibly fill that gaping hole?
The Red Sox are hoping it will be Hanley Ramirez.
I don’t think that any player will ever be able to match the skill, determination, heart, or spirit that Papi showed for every game, but players can try. And the Red Sox are hoping that Hanley is up to that challenge.
In November 2014, Hanley Ramirez signed a 4-year, $88 million dollar contract with the Boston Red Sox. That means Hanley has/will make $22 million dollars a season. Just for some perspective, that is more than 4 times what Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts, and Xander Bogaerts make combined.
So it is needless to say that when Hanley came to Boston in 2015 he was expected to perform at a very high level. Unfortunately, his results were underwhelming to say the least. With only 53 RBIs and a .249 batting average, it is easy to see that the Red Sox thought they would get a little more from the left-fielder for his pricy $22 million salary.
But then something changed.
Hanley Ramirez moved to first base in 2016. He whacked 30 home runs and reached a career-high of 111 runs batted in. It is needless to say that Hanley found his moxie last season.
So what happened?
Maybe Hanley finally got used to playing in Boston weather. But if you ask me, I think he learned from the best. Hanley spent last season in Papi’s shadow. Hitting right behind him in the lineup and learning from the wealth of knowledge that is David Ortiz. Hanley had undoubtedly the best mentor a designated hitter could ever have.
When describing Papi, Hanley explained:
He’s my mentor. He’s my everything.
So it should come as no surprise that the Red Sox will promote Hanley Ramirez to fill David’s shoes (or should I say cleats). And I think Hanley is more than up to the challenge. It is the end of the David Ortiz era but hopefully it will be the beginning of a new one for Hanley Ramirez.
And though Hanley will be taking over the DH spot, he will always have a special place in his heart for David, as evidenced by his choice of apparel for his arrival at Spring Training (pictured below).
Yeah, we see you in that shirt, Hanley. We know whose shoes you are trying to fill. And though there will always be rumors and dreams that Papi will emerge from retirement to rejoin the team, the current Red Sox know it is their turn to step up to the plate without Papi.
But we have not seen the last of David Ortiz. I’m sure he will be at many Red Sox games cheering on his former teammates from a luxury box instead of the dugout.
So will Hanley become the next David Ortiz in all capacities? Skilled player, dedicated teammate, and charming friend? Will Hanley rise up to be a veteran leader on the team? Only time will tell for sure. But with a mentor and friend like David Ortiz, it would be hard to expect otherwise.