Yesterday the Red Sox gave their final thank-you to David Ortiz, as the finale of the David Ortiz celebration weekend. It was a long and wonderful ceremony befitting a player of Ortiz’s stature. How good was the ceremony? Oh, I don’t know. It’s hard to compare. Can a retirement ceremony ever be as amazing as a ring ceremony? Or the ceremony before the 1999 All-Star game? Or a 100th birthday ceremony?
I’ve been trying to remember the difference ceremonies that I’ve been to at Fenway. The three ring ceremonies. The Ted Williams Celebration. Fisk’s number retirement. The All-Star game. The keys to all the ceremonies fall in a few areas.
Quality of Guests. If you’re going to have a former teammate come out, it better be Pedro or Manny. If it was only Curtis Leskanic, you’ve got some issues. Sometimes the quality comes from the rarity. Since Pedro works (or worked?) for the team, he’s a slightly more frequent guest than, say, Kyle Snyder. So, it’s nice to be able to welcome him back.
Which brings us to the “uniqueness of guests” area. Jason Varitek is around a lot. Pedro has shown up at some rather mundane times. Jim Rice. Even Yaz seems to be the “go to legend.” Mixing it up every once in a while is a lot more fun.
There’s also the presentation of the event. I remember during the 2005 ring ceremony, they introduced the 2004 team in order of tenure. That meant there was a long stretch of people who had only appeared for the Sox briefly in 2004. Even less than a year later, that was a long line of people who people didn’t know, and had no real affinity for. When they got to 2007, they mixed that order up a bit. So, the stars and fan favorites were more evenly dispersed.
So, how did yesterday’s ceremony do? Very well.
Having the commissioner there was a big bang out of the gate. I’m not sure I remember him being there before. Following that up with three political heavyweights just added onto the uniqueness. Yaz and Rice came out next. While they are definitely regular
participants in these events, the fact that they were there as retired numbers to announce that Ortiz would be joining them was highly appropriate. Then came the parade of teammates. This is where the Sox hit it out of the park. They could have invited all his teammates. Or any of his teammates, or his first teammates. Instead, the Red Sox focused on what the fans would enjoy the most. The World Champions. (OK. This may have been a gimmie. But, still.) Not only did this keep the numbers down, but it kept the recognition up. The representatives of the 2004 team were all key contributors. The stars of the other two teams were all there two. Honestly can only think of a player or two (of those not active players/managers) that I would have wanted to see. That was a home run when it came to player selection. Having the president of the Dominican Republic there was fantastic. Talk about a high quality guest.
If I had one complaint, I suppose it would be the song by Mary J Blige. I get that she’s apparently Ortiz’s favorite artist. But after singing the anthem, the additional song seemed forced and unnecessary.
What about the gifts and presentations? They did really well with those too.
First, I was surprised to hear that the Sox gave Ortiz some gifts privately. Made me wonder about the nature of those gifts, and why they were just between them.
The L.L. Bean boots seemed forced. I know that Brian Butterfield is from Maine, and there may be an inside joke there. But, it just screamed “paid advertisement” to me. I thought the announcement of the new fellowship with MLB was a nice gesture. It was a unique way to recognize Ortiz on a corporate level. Naming a bridge and a road after him was another incredible gesture, although probably a bit overkill to have both. Especially were they basically touch each other. Announcing that his number would be retired next year was a bit of a surprise. Not that he doesn‘t deserve the honor. In fact, it’s one of the times I can absolutely see ignoring the written rules. It’s the “next year” part. Thought they’d want to space it out a bit. Maybe wait the five years to see if he goes into the Hall on the first ballot. Where they just had this ceremony now, what are they going to do differently next season? Of course, the highlight of the gifts, at least according to Ortiz, was the dual donation to the David Ortiz Children’s Fund. Where almost every team that honored Ortiz included a donation to the fund, you knew the Sox had to do something. They really knocked it out of the park. Especially by combining a foundation donation with a more personal match. Wow. Just wow.
So there you have it. An incredible ceremony for a well deserving player. What did you think of it? I know Ortiz said he was getting worn out by all the ceremonies, but I’m glad they went so well. And, I hope Ortiz is up for at least one more.
He’ll need to come back for a ring ceremony next April.