David Ortiz made a surprise appearance at Fenway Park on Monday night for the first time since he was shot in a botched assassination attempt in his native Dominican Republic in June.
Ortiz, introduced on the public-address system as a symbol of “resilience, strength, triumph and love,” ran up the steps from the dugout to the field, appearing strong and healthy, before throwing a pitch to former teammate Jason Varitek.
“I want to thank God for giving me a second opportunity in my life to be here with all of you,” Ortiz said to the crowd. “I want to thank the Red Sox, my real family. They always have been there for me, supporting me. … They were the first ones there supporting me.”
Ortiz, 43, was shot in the back by a gunman while sitting and talking with a friend at a nightclub in Santo Domingo on the night of June 9. He was flown back to Boston aboard a jet sent by the Red Sox the next day and spent seven weeks in a hospital, undergoing three surgeries for life-threatening injuries.
“I want to thank you for all for your prayers, all of them came home,” he told the crowd.
Ortiz also thanked his former Red Sox teammates for their visits and support, as well as some players on the Yankees who had come to see him as he was convalescing.
When the game started, Ortiz took a seat in the first row, right next to Boston’s dugout, giving his No. 34 home jersey to a young boy seated a few rows back in the first inning.
Ortiz, known as Big Papi, was a 10-time All-Star and three-time World Series winner with the Red Sox from 2003 through 2016, thrilling fans with late-game dramatics in the postseason. A street across from Fenway Park has been named for the slugger.
He further endeared himself to the fans with his heartfelt and profane speech at Fenway Park days after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, urging the city to be “Boston Strong.”
Ortiz’s appearance came on the same day the Red Sox announced that they had fired president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski on Sunday amid a disappointing season, less than a year after winning the 2018 World Series.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.