Papi encourages high school students

Big Papi encourages high school students

DORCHESTER, Mass. -- Even for someone accustomed to great ovations from thousands of adoring fans, Wednesday's cheers from a packed high school auditorium carried a little extra significance for David Ortiz.

The Red Sox slugger was on hand at the Jeremiah E. Burke High School to motivate the students to be their best and give them a reason to put their best foot forward.

At stake were two $2,500 scholarships, one each for a male and female high school senior. The "Reebok 4 Real Education" scholarships were funded and sponsored by the shoemaker, which also donated two treadmills and two elliptical machines to the high school, which is currently in a make-shift building while the school is renovated.

In an inner-city community where many families struggle to make ends meet, the Dominican native provided hope on this sunny afternoon.

"In my situation, I really think I had a good life as a kid, because I received a lot of love from my parents and family and I had a really good education and that was one of the most important things," Ortiz told the attentive audience. "We didn't have the financial status, but they gave me the most important thing that goes with it" education, love and teach people how to care. And because of that, I worked extra hard."

The man with the trademark smile also wanted to send a message to those kids who face temptations every day.

"You need to show them a happy face and show them that it doesn't matter how many times they knock you down," said Ortiz. "What matters is how many times you can get up. You've got to keep moving forward, stay positive and some day you're going to be somebody."

Ortiz and Reebok are conducting an essay contest, answering the question, "How would a scholarship help you fulfill your potential inside the classroom and outside the community?"

"I've faced a lot of tough situations in my life," Ortiz said. "There are some people who you are going to see in your life that don't care. They don't care who you are and don't care about who you are going to be. They just care about themselves. But you need to deal with those people every day."

Reebok employees in the United States will judge the essays and vote on two winners. The winners will be the guests of Reebok and Ortiz at the July 3 Red Sox-Devil Rays game.

Reebok will also award $2,500 scholarships to two students in Ortiz's native Dominican Republic.

"Working with someone like David who is equally as dedicated to helping young people makes this commitment even more meaningful and certainly more exciting to these young Red Sox fans," said Reebok spokesperson Denise Kaigler.

Toward the end of the program in the auditorium, a 18-year-old student stood and asked Ortiz what motivated him when he was his age.

"That's a really good question," Ortiz said. "I just thought about at one point helping my mom and dad and leading a better life. Having a good life is not all about being rich and having everything. That's not everything. There are a lot of people who were born with a lot of money and grow up to be nobody later in life and it was maybe because they had everything since they were born."

Mike Petraglia is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.