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MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Papi cements Sox legacy with third Series

Papi cements Sox legacy with third Series

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Papi cements Sox legacy with third Series

MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

BOSTON -- He did a live interview with Japanese television. Talked some hitting. Did some laughing.

He gave a round of interviews in Spanish with reporters from his native Dominican Republic. Accommodating and talkative, as always.

If David Ortiz wasn't the happiest, most relaxed man in New England on Tuesday afternoon, he almost certainly was on the short list.

No matter how things play out the next few days, this surely is going to be remembered as one of the most satisfying seasons the Red Sox slugger has had.

Maybe life does begin at 37.

Remember how this 2013 baseball season began? Around the Red Sox, there were two recurring story lines:

• Boston was going to finish last in the American League East.

• Ortiz's days of producing at a high level might very well be over.

How were so many of us so wrong? Actually, Ortiz has said he also wondered about that second part of the deal.

Seven months later, the Red Sox will play the Cardinals in Game 1 of the 2013 World Series, airing Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX. First pitch is scheduled for 8:07.

And David Ortiz at 37 has been almost as good as ever. Never mind the Achilles injuries that limited him to 90 games last season. Never mind that he began this season on the disabled list.

After missing Boston's first 15 games, he went out and led the Major Leagues with 27 intentional walks. That's eight more than any other player drew and a symbol of the respect with which he's still held.

All he did was have his seventh 30-homer, 100-RBI season and finish in the top 10 in the American League in virtually every offensive category.

He led the Red Sox in the Triple Crown categories -- home runs (30), RBIs (103) and batting average (.309) -- becoming the first to do so since Manny Ramirez in 2001.

So as he wraps up his 11th season with the Red Sox, he's about to play in his third World Series. For a franchise that once seemed defined by its failures, the Red Sox now are pretty much the living, breathing definition of success.

Having played on both the 2004 and '07 championship teams, Ortiz has some perspective.

"I think in '04, we had a lot of guys that know the game," he said. "We had a lot of talent. Right now, we probably don't have that much talent. We have guys with big hearts who make things happen."

When asked whether, after 17 seasons in the Majors, he'll take a moment to soak it all in Wednesday night when he's introduced, he smiled.

"I'm proud to be here," he said. "Happy to represent this organization that I've been part of for the past 11 years. Happy and proud."

And what's his advice for teammates who've never been in a World Series?

"Don't try to do too much and have fun," he said. "This is unique. This is one time in life. It's not like you have a whole month to play in the World Series. It's something that happens real quick. You want to be at your best. You don't know when you'll be in the next one. You've got to bring the best out of you. It's seven games and take it to the house. It never gets old."

Finally ...

"It's an honor for me to be back with the same organization," he said. "It's something that doesn't happen to too many of us."

Now about those doubts. Ortiz began the season on the disabled list, and no one around the Red Sox knew when he'd play again or at what level he'd produce.

Ortiz has said that he, too, doubted he could ever been the player he once was. So it was a delight when after homering twice against the Rays in an AL Division Series, he laughed loudly and said, "I'm hitting like I was 20 again."

OK, sort of.

Besides, he remembers people doubting that the 2004 Red Sox were going enough to beat the Cardinals.

"At the end of the day, I went home with a ring," he said.

Because he's the senior member of the Red Sox and because he's so recognizable, and at times outspoken, he's a lightning rod for criticism.

He's also one of the most beloved Red Sox ever, but it's the negative talk that can sting.

"If that doesn't happen, there would be no challenge," he said. "People are always going to talk trash about everything. You're not going to make everyone happy. So what you do is you come in and do your thing. In my case, I'm done with thinking about what people have to say. I think I have proved myself more than anyone else in this organization for a long period of time. The one thing I feel like I had to prove is to come in and try to help this ballclub win games."

This postseason has been an interesting ride. After hitting .385 in the five games against the Rays, he hit just .091 against the Tigers in the AL Championship Series.

But one of those two hits was the biggest of the series. It came in the eighth inning of Game 2 with the Red Sox trailing 5-1 and four outs from an 0-2 hole on the road.

Ortiz's grand slam ignited a wild celebration at Fenway Park and turned out to the turning point of the series.

He said that hit, coming in a game that seemed to be lost, should tell the world what the 2013 Red Sox are about.

"We play hard, man," he said. "It doesn't matter the situation. We never give up. We give up when you get the last out. Before that, we keep fighting."

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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