Two innings after David Ortiz parked a home run against the Tigers several rows over the right-field bullpens for his 1,999th career hit -- over the Fenway Park speakers, Prince implored everyone to “party like it’s 1999” -- Ortiz completed his journey to the 2K Hit Club by short-hopping a double off the centerfield wall.
As Ortiz stood on second base, Red Sox fans showered a standing ovation upon their beloved paternal slugger, Big Papi, as he’s universally known. (This time the theme from “The Natural” served as musical accompaniment as the NESN broadcast went silent.) The crowd appeared to be in an especially celebratory mood, as the Sox were on their way to a 20-4 drubbing of the Tigers, capping a series win in the matchup between the AL’s top two teams.
There’s an unmistakable bond between Bostonians and Ortiz, the 37-year-old Dominican native now in his 11th season with the Sox. Not only did he deliver so many clutch hits during the franchise’s improbable 2004 World Series run, but he also has become one of the most recognizable and beloved public figures in the city, a sentiment sealed by his role as impromptu spokesperson in the first home game after the Boston Marathon bombing, when he declared, “This is our f-----’ city.”
It was fitting, therefore, that he would reach such a milestone at home, but what may have been even more appropriate was that Ortiz didn’t stop at the big, round number. An inning after becoming the 17th active player with 2,000 hits, he smacked No. 2,001, another long home run -- for which Fenway cued the theme from “2001: A Space Odyssey” -- as Ortiz showed that he’s far from being done, a borderline Hall of Famer still effectively bolstering his credentials.
Unlike the other designated hitter on the precipice of 2,000 -- the Indians’ Jason Giambi has 1,999 -- Ortiz remains one of the game’s preeminent power hitters. He now has 26 home runs and a .963 OPS, the third straight season the latter number has been above .950. He’s sufficiently feared that he leads the majors with 18 intentional walks.
Ortiz is producing and he’s staying put, too, an anchor in Boston’s lineup for another season. After a couple of acrimonious offseasons in which the Sox went year-to-year with him, the club signed him to a two-year deal this winter, meaning Ortiz is guaranteed to be back, a sense of security he hadn’t enjoyed since 2009. There will be more tributes for Ortiz in Boston with a ceremonial sendoff to commemorate the close of his career at a future date, but for now expect more such counting number compilations. At the rate he's going, keep this in mind for two or three years hence: He is only 73 home runs away from 500.