Big Papi speaks out on gays. “It’s the (expletive) 21st century, man!”

(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

David Ortiz speaks out on gays. “It’s the 21st century, man!”

By Joel Alderman

When David Ortiz speaks out, most fans and fellow players listen. Big Papi is probably the friendliest and most popular player among teammates and opponents alike in major league baseball That’s why he is a leader. And that’s why those in the game respect what he says and follow his lead. That’s how he was able to rally his fellow Red Soxers in a dugout speech during last fall’s World Series

A few days ago he revealed his thoughts about the possible entry of openly gay players in baseball. Most of us are aware that Jason Collins, who in the past had played in the National Basketball Association for the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards, told Sports Illustrated he is gay, and soon afterwards was given a tryout contract with the Brooklyn Nets. We also have seen countless stories about Michael Sam, a defensive end from the University of Missouri, whose is expected to be drafted soon by a National Football League team. Even before he turns pro, he revealed his sexual orientation.

So after these milestone events in professional sports, it was only natural for someone to ask one of the highest profile players in major league baseball if he would accept having a gay teammate.

A veteran reporter for the Boston Herald, Steve Buckley, has just pursued that subject with Ortiz at the Red Sox training camp in Fort Myers, Florida. And the MVP in last year’s World Series provided surprising insight and guts in speaking his mind. Of course, most of us already know he isn’t afraid to say what he thinks, following the comment that slipped out after the Boston Marathon bombings, “This is our (expletive) city.”

Only Big Papi could get away with saying something like that before a packed Fenway Park and on live TV. There was no fine, no reprimand. No suspension. No outward criticism. Just plenty of agreement from Bostonians.

Big Papi’s answer

Whether he would welcome an openly gay teammate, Ortiz said simply: “I’m nobody to judge anyone.”

Using Collins as an example, he said “we need to accept people for the way they are. It doesn’t matter where you come from, what color you are, or coming out.” He added, “I’m fine with that.”

The influence of his mother, Angela

This is not just a matter of Ortiz catching up with the times. He told Buckley that he always felt that way, going back to his childhood when he had a 13-year old friend who was gay. The friend often confided in Ortiz’ mother, Angela, “telling her everything.” and that “they used to talk about his feelings.”

“They were close,” David said. “And it was my mother who taught me to love people for who they are. That’s what she told me.”

He demonstrates his mother’s teaching practically every time he is on the field in a Boston uniform. He treats teammates and opponents the same way, always with hugs, smiles and (although we can’t hear him) obviously friendly and happy words. He makes everybody laugh.

He shows to others the love his mother taught him to have. He is great with kids. And he even goes the distance with those who are not particularly popular in Beantown. Last year, after a game at Fenway Park, while Alex Rodriguez was in the middle of his controversial return to the Yankees while appealing his suspension, Papi reportedly brought A-Rod, to his house for dinner.

Advice to his 21st century colleagues in MLB

In the interview, Ortiz wanted to make it clear that he was speaking for himself about gays, not the team. “That’s a question that everybody needs to answer on his own.” But he also emphasized “It’s the (expletive) 21st century man. Get over it.”

Ortiz gave Buckley this explanation of how he feels about gays:

“I have gay friends and we have great relationships when it comes down to respecting each other. It’s not something you choose to be. It’s not like ‘I want to be a baseball player’ or ‘I want to be a basketball player.’ It’s something you’re born with and everybody needs to accept that. Hey, look, the way I see things, I love people the way they are. Especially if you are honest with yourself.”

Then he asked that overly-used but, in this case, very appropriate question:

“You know what I’m saying?”

Yes, Papi, I certainly do know what you are saying. And I applaud you for saying it.

 

Bibliography

 

Buckley, Steve. (2014, March 1). David Ortiz is OK with gay. Boston Herald.

 

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