David Ortiz helped his adopted city recover from the Boston Marathon bombings. Now the Boston Red Sox are calling on their fans to reciprocate for their beloved Big Papi.
"We all remember in 2013 when we needed David Ortiz the most, he was there for us,'' team president Sam Kennedy said Monday, a day after the longtime slugger was wounded in a nightclub shooting in his native Dominican Republic. "So it's appropriate and expected that his community would rally behind David when he needs us most.''
Ortiz, 43, was shot at a club in Santo Domingo. A team of surgeons operated on Ortiz for six hours and repaired damage done by the bullet to both intestines and his liver. They also had to remove Ortiz's gallbladder to work on the liver, though the gallbladder itself was not damaged.
"I didn't sleep very well last night,'' said Red Sox special assistant Jason Varitek, who was Ortiz's teammate for nearly a decade. "I don't think anybody did.''
The shooting occurred during Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final and stole the city's attention from the Bruins' victory, as fans and former teammates stayed up into the morning hoping for information on Ortiz's condition. Longtime rivals turned to social media to offer their best wishes, and former Dominican president Leonel Fernandez visited Ortiz in the hospital.
"It shocked us to the core,'' Kennedy said. "It was jarring, stunning and, frankly, terrifying. It was a horrific incident. Our focus right now is exclusively to focus on his health and well-being [and] to get David back here in Boston.''
Varitek on Ortiz: He's 'a great human being'
Former Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek becomes emotional talking about David Ortiz and is very complimentary of his former teammate.
The Red Sox sent an air ambulance to the Dominican Republic to transport Ortiz to Boston, where he will continue his treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital. The plane landed Monday night while the Red Sox were playing the Texas Rangers.
The team asked fans to observe a moment of reflection shortly before Monday night's 4-3 loss to the Rangers at Fenway Park and posted a message on the videoboard: "We send our love to David Ortiz.'' In the sixth inning, fans broke out into cheers of "Papi!'' and cheered when pictures of fans in his No. 34 jersey were shown on the scoreboard.
Chris Sale, who started Monday's game for the Red Sox, said afterward that things felt a little different given the situation with Ortiz.
"Obviously, we're thinking about him," Price said. "We had a meeting before the game about it. He's as much a part of this team as anybody's ever been. Yesterday was a tough day and today too. I'm glad he's doing well and in good hands. Just hoping for the best and trying to get some wins for him. I know that'll make him happy, that's for sure."
"I just hope when he gets here that everything is fine, and we can see the big man here again with us and filling our room with joy,'' manager Alex Cora said. "He's bigger than life.''
A 10-time All-Star and the MVP of the 2013 World Series, Ortiz is one of the most productive -- and popular -- players in Red Sox history. He led the once-cursed franchise to three championships and retired in 2016 with a total of 541 home runs, 17th-most in baseball history.
"Somebody just asked me what my favorite memory was. And it's not all the home runs and game-winning hits that he's had and the World Series,'' Red Sox pitcher Rick Porcello said. "It's how he embraces everyone in a room. Just that imposing, loving figure that makes everyone feel special. That's something that you don't see a lot. That's what separates him, for me.''
Jeter on Ortiz shooting: 'It was complete and utter shock'
Derek Jeter talks about the moment he heard David Ortiz had been shot and expresses what Ortiz means to baseball and sports as a whole.
Ortiz further endeared himself to local fans when he went to the Fenway Park mound after the attacks at the marathon finish line and proclaimed, "This is our f---ing city!"
"Everyone knows what he was able to do on the field,'' said longtime New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, who is now a Miami Marlins owner. "What he has meant to the community -- not only in Boston but in the Dominican -- this is a guy who is beloved throughout the sport and throughout sports in general.''
"He's obviously an icon on the Mount Rushmore in the city of Boston athletes, but he is 'the guy' in the Dominican Republic,'' Red Sox assistant general manager Eddie Romero said. "He's more famous than any president. When people think of the Dominican Republic, they think David Ortiz, they think of Pedro Martinez.''
Albert Pujols, who has been close with Ortiz for years and also hails from the Dominican Republic, said the legendary slugger means "everything" in their native country.
"As a player, as a fellow Dominican, you don't see that. People really respect players over there, down in the DR," Pujols said. "It's just unfortunate. He was, I guess, in the wrong spot at the wrong time."
Said Mets second baseman Robinson Cano, another fellow Dominican: "[Ortiz is] an idol for all of us.''
Martinez was emotional in discussing Ortiz on Monday.
"I don't have enough words to describe who David is, what David means to baseball," Martinez said on the MLB Network. "But I'm so disappointed to know that someone like David, who has saved so many lives, can have someone after his life. It hurts me. It hurts me."
Red Sox starter David Price played with Ortiz in his last season and said the Boston icon embraced him with open arms.
"I didn't want it to be anything about me and him. I wanted it to be all about him. And he didn't want it to be all about him. He wanted it to be about us as a team. So I've got nothing but love and respect for Big Papi, and he's well aware of that," Price said.
Mookie Betts echoed that sentiment Monday, saying that Ortiz made him feel welcome and at home in his rookie year.
"I can't speak for other people, but for me, he's like a big brother and a dad at the same time," Betts said.
Six years ago, David Ortiz's spirit and resolve helped us all begin to heal from the Boston Marathon bombing. Today, I want to join many others in wishing him a speedy recovery of his own. Get well soon, Papi. pic.twitter.com/9orpBgnVI5— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) June 10, 2019
Papi defines Boston Strong... get well soon my friend!!! pic.twitter.com/QFFJ4nvQnU— Tom Brady (@TomBrady) June 10, 2019
The Red Sox retired Ortiz's No. 34 in 2017, less than a year after he retired, and a street outside the ballpark was renamed in his honor. He remains connected with the ballclub in a role that includes mentoring players, recruiting free agents and making special appearances.
ESPN's Alden Gonzalez and The Associated Press contributed to this report.