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Big Papi and the Library Ladies

Big PapiIf you were lucky enough to come to the library on April 25th, you most assuredly did a double take when you saw the Retirement Rookie – or Big Papi shelving books in the stacks. You saw him shushing patrons, chatting it up with readers in our quiet Cushing Reading Room, or checking out books at the front desk. The adorable storytime in the Children’s Room was so much fun for the children, Big Papi, the parents, and onlookers.

Big Papi (aka David Ortiz) retired from the Red Sox at the young age of 40 and now he apparently has time on his hands. In April, viewers online were asked by John Hancock Retirement to tweet ideas for how Big Papi could spend his free time.

Apparently, working in a library was one of those ideas. Ad agency Hill Holliday teamed up with David Ortiz a few months ago and the digital campaign culminated in a set of ads set in locales around Eastern Massachusetts.

That’s why you’ll see scenes of the Morrill Memorial Library in an exciting new John Hancock Retirement commercial that will go online in coming weeks. The library here in Norwood was evidently chosen for many reasons. One of them is obvious – our library still LOOKS like a library. Much of our 19th Century building was brought back to its original glory in the latest 2001 renovation. Our rich mahogany walls, moulding, and 14-foot columns, and our stained and leaded glass remind everyone of glorious libraries of the past.  “What a beautiful place to read, sit and study,” people say.

David Ortiz is 6 foot 3 inches tall. It was obvious to all of us that library book carts aren’t built for tall men. Big Papi, bending over a very short cart, wound his way along the first floor pretending to look for the right place to shelve a book.

Of course, patrons and staff were a bit star struck. How often do you see a BIG sports star in our library? There was absolutely no mistaking the fact that something was happening. Huge film trucks were parked in staff parking at the rear of the library. Once inside the doors, you couldn’t miss the 30 film crew moving about the first and second floors. Large editing and viewing apparatus was tucked into every corner, and wires and cords snaked along every walkway.

There were many moments of shushing. Everyone knows that the library is a different place today and that we have a few spots that are reserved for quiet reading but when the cameras were rolling, we were asked to be absolutely silent.

Before the day filming began, we had been told that a New England Red Sox recently-retired player would be featured in the commercial. His/her name was withheld from us. That day, we were also asked not to post anything on social media.

Thankfully, that day many of us had the cameras on our phone to record the excitement. A few enterprising staff members ran to local Norwood sports stores for baseballs. Of course, a gracious Big Papi autographed them. Filming took just a bit under four hours before Mr. Ortiz was whisked out of the library. The crew spent several more hours closing up the library location and before we knew it, the day had been a memory for the library staff.

David Americo Ortiz Arias was born in late 1975 in the Dominican Republic and was raised there. He graduated from high school as a talented baseball AND basketball player. He attended local baseball games whenever he could of both Ramon and Pedro Martinez, both eventually Major League baseball players in the United States. Ortiz signed on with the Seattle Mariners in 1992, was traded to the Minnesota Twins in 1996, and signed with the Boston Red Sox (thanks to his relationship with Pedro) in 2003. He played baseball for 20 seasons before retiring at the age of 40 in 2016.

Ortiz lost his mother in a car accident in the Dominican Republic in 2002 when she was only 46. It’s well-known that Ortiz looks to the sky in memory and praise of his mother each time he hits a home run and steps on home plate and she is portrayed in a tattoo on his biceps. He is also well-known for his foundation, the David Ortiz Children’s Fund that supports children in Boston and the Dominican Republic. Sales of Vintage Papi, his charity wine label, raises money for the fund. He’s also a champion of UNICEF Kid Power.

After the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, it was Ortiz who helped bring Boston together again. After all, Big Papi is a Bostonian. And an American. On June 11, 2008, Ortiz became a United States citizen at John F. Kennedy Library in Boston.

In 2008, David Ortiz and Tony Massarotti wrote Big Papi: My Story of Big Dreams and Big Hits. He had just broken the team’s record with 54 home runs in 2006 and in 2007 for the THIRD STRAIGHT YEAR he started the All-Star game.  The Red Sox had broken the curse in 2004 after Ortiz was a team player and they went on to win again in 2007. David Ortiz’ story had not been fully told however – he had nearly a decade more to write about.

This week, Papi: My Story written by Ortiz and Michael Holley will be on library book shelves. By the time he retired in 2016, Ortiz was named an All-Star seven more times. The Red Sox went on to win the World Series one more time in 2014 with Ortiz behind the bat.  Ortiz went on to hit the most home runs by any player in his final season – 38. He finished his career with 541 home runs and a .286 batting average.  In 2015, Big Papi joined the ranks of three other great players in Red Sox history – Williams, Yastrzemski and Martinez. They were voted Franchise Four by Red Sox fans.

There’s no doubt that Ortiz’ reputation on the baseball field, for commitment to his family (his daughter sang the National Anthem during his final home opener at Fenway with his wife Tiffany and other two children on hand) and for his huge heart are all very real. The Morrill Memorial Library has always been Red Sox territory. We are thrilled that Big Papi joined us for the day; we’ll never forget his smiles and his amazing presence among the Library Ladies in Norwood.  Big Papi is welcome anytime he wants to visit.

Charlotte Canelli is the library director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, Massachusetts.  Read Charlotte’s column in the May 18th issue of the Norwood Transcript & Bulletin.


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