David Ortiz was born on Nov. 18, 1975. but even when he was a young player with the Minnesota Twins, it was a popular pastime to question him.
During spring training in 2002, Ortiz was off to a great start. His problem was that he had to continue concentrating on his hitting and dismiss accusations that he was older than he claimed.
He told sportswriter Neal La Velle III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he was really 26 years old.
“I already have five years in. And I’m 26 for real,” he said. “So, forget about (the doubters).”
Ortiz continued, saying he didn’t have to get involved in the crackdown on age-fixing by some Latin American players.
The questions about his age started when he broke into baseball with the Seattle Mariners in 1994. They gained momentum in 1997 when, with three minor league teams, he went from Fort Myers (Class A) to New Britain (Class AA) to Salt Lake (Class AAA) and finally to the majors.
With the four teams, Ortiz hit a total of 32 home runs and drove in 130 runs.
Things were viewed differently during the 1990s. Minnesota Twins assistant general manager Bill Smith addressed the “issue” of Ortiz’s age.
“Some in the media speculated that he may be older. We said, `Well, if people were concerned that he was 23 years old playing in A-ball, now he’s 23 playing in the big leagues. Once a guy gets there, age is no longer a factor.”
To prove Ortiz’s age, Smith did what the current resident of the White House was hesitant to do.
Smith showed reporters a file that contained Ortiz’s passport and visa. Both documents revealed that Ortiz was born on Nov. 18, 1975. He then defused any questions with respect to the accuracy of the documents.
Major League Baseball has an office in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. Players must return to the town in which they were born to get their birth certificate records.
David Ortiz overcame questions about his age. He joined the Boston Red Sox in 2003 and became one of baseball’s all-time greats.
In 2004, he was instrumental in finally forcing New York Yankees fans from chanting “1918.” For good measure, the Red Sox won the World Championship again in 2007.
Ortiz has batted .282/.377/.545, averaging 35 home runs and 118 RBIs over a 162 game season. He is probably just short of being a future Hall of Famer.
There have been allegations that David Ortiz’s hitting ability was helped by substances the MLB frowns upon, but the fact is that Ortiz has never been suspended for using performance enhancing substances.
The argument that it would not be in baseball’s best interests to suspend one of its brightest stars is pejorative at best. What happened to Manny Ramirez?
The clincher was reported by Bleacher Report correspondent Mark Travis (One Year Suspension for Substance Abusers), who reported that in 2009, Ortiz wanted a one-year suspension for any player that violates MLB’s drug policy.
The recommendation certainly is not in the best interests of any individual who is guilty of violating the policy.
To paraphrase a popular rock group that told teacher to leave the kids alone, it’s time for everyone to leave David Ortiz alone.
Neal, La Velle E., III. “Ortiz off to strong start; The Twins’ David Ortiz is keeping his focus on his hitting and not questions about his age.” Star Tribune [Minneapolis, MN] 4 Mar. 2002: 6C.