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A larger than life figure, David Ortiz represented many of the great little things in baseball

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And made an incalculable impact on so many baseball fans in Boston and beyond.

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Boston Red Sox vs New York Yankees, 2004 American League Championship Series Set Number: X72074 TK4

As I’m sure you know if you’re reading this, David Ortiz was officially elected to the Hall of Fame on Tuesday night. It was no sure thing, even in the hours leading up to the announcement, but by the end of the night the Boston Red Sox legend was the lone player voted in by the BBWAA. It’s clearly well-deserved, as Ortiz was one of the best hitters of his generation even taking away all of the postseason and general clutch moments that helped form his legendary aura. For his career, he finished with 541 homers while hitting .286/.380/.552 for a 140 wRC+, indicating he was 40 percent better than the league-average hitter over the course of his entire career.

Honestly, just speaking for myself it didn’t really matter whether or not he actually got in. Obviously I am thrilled that he did and I am always happy to take an excuse to look back at his incredible career. Still, even if he didn’t get in I remember everything he meant to myself and all other Red Sox fans, and those memories exist whether or not the BBWAA voters decide to acknowledge it.

I was born in 1991 and started following the Red Sox in 1998, but didn’t really start following them with intensity until 2003. That was, of course, the year in which Boston signed Ortiz. So in that way, Ortiz’s career spanned most of my baseball-watching life, and he impacted my life as a baseball fan more than anyone else save for maybe Pedro Martínez. The definition of a larger-than-life figure, the thing that strikes me as I reflect back on watching him is how much he embodied the little things about baseball that has made me gravitate toward the game to the degree that I do.

If someone were to ask me to pick the one thing about baseball that separates it from other sports, I would say it’s the one-on-one aspect of the game that is played within the larger team game. The battle between batter and pitcher, especially in the tensest of moments, is something for me that cannot be matched in other sports. And nobody I’ve ever seen was better suited for those one-on-one matchups than Ortiz.

Generally speaking, I think sports fans are too quick to declare whether or not a player is clutch, but that’s not the same thing as saying clutch doesn’t exist. I believe it’s human nature for some people to be better under the spotlight in those one-on-one situations and some to be worse. I’ll be the first to admit I’d be in the latter category! But Ortiz thrived in an almost impossible way in those tense situations, the moments that make baseball the sport that it is.

He’s also perhaps the best example of players defying expectations and coming out of nowhere. This isn’t something that is totally absent in other sports, of course, but given the long road it takes to even make the majors in the first place, and the small changes and bounces that can totally turn the perception of a player, it certainly seems like baseball is more apt to produce that kind of story. I’ll put it this way: The Red Sox have had two DH’s in the last two decades, and both players were cut outright earlier in their career.

We all know the story of Ortiz at this point, getting cut by the Twins after the 2002 season, Pedro Martínez convincing Red Sox brass to take a chance on him, and Ortiz immediately taking the organization into a new era with more success than most could dream. Thinking back on his rise, what really strikes me in hindsight is how quickly this stuff happens and how you barely notice. You have this guy on Opening Day whose name and face you’re just starting to remember, and the next thing you know he’s the most important player on the team.

One of the other cool things about baseball that is certainly more true here than just about any other sport is how many different types of people can succeed, and I mean different in every aspect from ethnicity, geographic location growing up, socioeconomic class, and even body type. Ortiz was, let’s say, not a small dude. He was a towering figure and an intimidating one standing in the batter’s box. He also spent a significant portion of his career alongside Dustin Pedroia, who is basically the exact opposite physically. They’re two of the best Red Sox players I’ve seen in my life, and they couldn’t be more different.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Boston Red Sox Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

And then, to bring things back to Martínez and Ortiz, who were fittingly together when the latter received the news of his induction, both of those players really showed baseball’s ability to capture a person’s levity alongside their intensity. In my truly formative years, it was Martínez putting that on display, but Ortiz did it just as well. Almost all of the time he was shown in the dugout — which was a lot thanks to the whole DH thing — he was goofing around, showing his bubbly personality. Then there were the times in the batter’s box when he was just staring daggers into a pitcher whose heart he was about to rip out, not to mention the times telephones talked trash.

In Cooperstown or not, Ortiz was always and is always going to be one of the most important players in the history of the Red Sox, and one of the most iconic players in the modern era of baseball. In so many ways, Ortiz was a massive presence, coming through on the biggest of stages and just generally playing a loud game at the plate. But at the same time, he ushered in a whole generation of baseball fans in Boston, and honestly all around the nation and world, and in the process put on full display some of the great little things that separate baseball from other sports.