Through 17 years, two names and three teams, A.J. Pierzynski has seen this before from David Ortiz
|04.09.14 at 8:52 pm ET|
Perhaps it’s overstating it to say A.J. Pierzynski expected David Ortiz to drive a rocket about 100 feet beyond the fence in right field in the eighth inning Wednesday for the game-winning three-run homer in a 4-2 win over the Rangers. But certainly it’s safe to say he wasn’t surprised. After all, Pierzynski has seen this sort of thing for the better part of two decades, dating to when Ortiz — then known as David Arias — was an up-and-coming slugger for the Mariners‘ affiliate in the Single-A Midwest League and Pierzynski opposed him with the Twins’ Midwest League team in Fort Wayne in 1996.
After that season, the M’s traded “Arias” to the Twins as a player to be named for Dave Hollins. After he moved between organizations, Ortiz revealed two things to the Twins — first, that his listed date of birth (February 18, 1975) was inaccurate, and that he had been born on Nov. 18, 1975, and secondly, that despite the fact that his full given name is David Americo Ortiz Arias (with Arias being his mother’s maiden name), he went by the name of David Ortiz.
Pierzynski was unfamiliar with those details. But he knew what he saw immediately in early 1997, when he and Ortiz were teammates with the High-A Fort Myers Miracle.
“My first game I ever played with David, or one of my first, in ’97, when he first came over, we were playing maybe Port Charlotte, the Rangers,” Pierzynski related Wednesday after the fourth win of the season. “Ninth inning, they brought in a lefty, and he hit a walkoff homer to left field. And I had known, playing against him the year before, I was in Fort Wayne and he was in Appleton, and I said, ‘Man, this guy can hit a little bit.’ Then we traded got him and I was like, ‘Man, we got this Arias guy.’ And then we he came over, he was Ortiz, and I said, ‘Man, I think we traded for the wrong guy!’ It was the same guy.”
Indeed it was. And in many ways, Ortiz remains the same guy even now, 17 years later, with Pierzynski reunited in Boston with his former Twins teammate. Not much has changed in the interim.
Wednesday was just another in seemingly countless big moments where the game turned on one of his at-bats late. His three-run homer traveled some 100 feet beyond the Pesky Pole in right and was the 24th career go-ahead homer in the eighth inning or later, his last also coming against the Rangers on June 6 last year.
“David’s special,” Pierzynski said. “He loves the big moment. He lives for the big moment. We saw it again today. Through his ups and downs, whatever it is, David wants to be up there and he’s always wanted that. I’ve known him for 20 years and he’s always wanted to be the guy at bat in those situations.”
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