David Ortiz, ashis Red Sox teammates know from so many walk-off celebrations, is one huggablelug of a guy, and as 10 Boston-area Boys & Girls Club members greeted himin Fenway's outfield last month, they, too, felt the urge to merge. Said TaylorAdams, 8, "I just really want to hug him." The 6'4", 230-poundlefty, on hand to film an MLB public-service spot with the kids, promptlyscooped Taylor (right, in pink shirt) up in his massive arms while the othersshouted, "Me, too."
"It's hardnot to love Big Papi," said Frank Sanchez, a senior director of the Boys& Girls Clubs of America, MLB's official charity, which runs programs forsome 4.4 million children each year.
Ortiz spent theshoot divulging hitting tips. "Spit on your hands, clap and rub it in toget you in the hitting mood," said Ortiz. "Then give the pitcher a meanlook, and dig into the dirt with your foot. It drives pitchers crazy. Then askthe catcher how their mama's doing. If you get friendly with them, they mightgive you something to hit."
The kids, agesseven to 14, took turns hitting a ball off a tee, the longest drive coming from13-year-old Rowanny Estrella (in red), whom Ortiz dubbed Mini-Manny afterteammate Manny Ramirez. Perhaps it was coincidence, or the ghosts of Fenway,but the metal door of the Green Monster suddenly flew open. "Hey! It'sManny's room," Ortiz said. "He likes it in there so much that sometimes[during games] Manny just stays in there." The kids then went inside thescoreboard, pretending to search for Ramirez.
The 30-minuteshoot was edited to a 30-second spot that began airing this month and is, alas,bereft of almost all of Ortiz's wise words, including his final advice."When you go to hit," the slugger told the kids, "you need to betranquilo. It means calm and relaxed--just chill out."
CINDY LOO (ORTIZ WITH KIDS); DAMIAN STROHMEYER (ORTIZ ACTION)