Red Sox

Red Sox

BOSTON - A 16-year-old Dominican kid stepped up to the plate just around the corner from his home and took his swings in the batter's box.

One ball left the field. Then another. And another. It didn't take long for the only scout in attendance to realize the kid he was watching had a chance to be special.

That's when David Arias, later known as David Ortiz, signed his first professional contract with the Seattle Mariners in 1992.

"All they did was watch me hit and they signed me right away," Ortiz told "They didn't watch me throwing, they didn't watch me fielding, they didn't watch me running. They just watched me hit. And right away the scout went like, 'Let's lock him in so he can play at the age of 17 the following year.'"

The rules stated that Ortiz couldn't play until he was 17, but the Mariners didn't want to risk waiting until then to sign him. Not long after that, Ortiz was on his way to the United States, where he'd go from the Dominican to the Mariners' farm system through Arizona and Wisconsin. 

Being signed was a dream come true, but there was another dream the young Ortiz was working towards . . .

"I always dreamed of playing in the big leagues with Ken Griffey Jr. at the time," Ortiz said. "It never happened, but I got to meet him, we got to be good friends; him and his dad were really good to all of us, especially the Latino kids. I never forgot about that."

Griffey Jr. is about six years older than Ortiz and had been doing his thing in the big leagues for long enough that he was already considered one of the best in the league by the time Ortiz was going though the system. 


"Besides being cool, coming up I wanted to hit like [Griffey Jr.],” Ortiz added. “But it's not that easy. I think Griffey was unique when it comes down to the way he hit. It was beautiful. It was something special. But I'm pretty sure a lot of kids at the time wanted to hit like him."

Led by a blossoming Griffey Jr., the Mariners had a good team in the early 1990s, reaching the ALCS in 1995, but they were trying to get to that next level. 

In late August of 1996, they were locked in a playoff race with the Baltimore Orioles for the wild card spot. Looking to shore up the left side of their infield, the M's made a trade with the Twins for third baseman Dave Hollins, agreeing to send over a player to be named later.

Two weeks went by before that player was agreed upon: David Ortiz, the first baseman who hit .322 with 18 home runs and 93 RBI for the Single-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, was now a member of the Minnesota Twins organization.

Ortiz's season in the minors had already been over by the time the trade occurred.

"I remember that when I got back to my country right after the season, the scout that signed me, he was at the airport waiting for me and he was the one that gave me the news that I got traded," Ortiz said. "It was a long time ago but I think it was right after the season because Seattle was about to go to the playoffs and they needed a third baseman."

Seattle never got to the playoffs. While Hollins held up his end of the bargain, hitting .351 and driving in 25 runs in 28 games, the Orioles clinched the wild card.

Ortiz, meanwhile, got his first taste of the business of baseball. He had been raking that year in the minors, but the Mariners, who already had plenty of offense and an All-Star DH in Edgar Martinez, felt Ortiz was expendable. Ortiz took the trade in stride and it proved to be a good thing for him.

"I had no idea about the whole situation but then I started listening to people be like, 'Man, you must be a big time prospect because they traded you one on one for the big leaguer,'" Ortiz said. 

"Minnesota brought me in to the instructional league a couple of weeks after, and that was it. The following year I went to big league camp, they put me on the 40 man roster with three years in the minor leagues, and that was it."

Hollins left the Mariners after the 1996 season; since, they have reached the playoffs only three times.


Ortiz was released by the Twins in 2002 and signed by the Red Sox before the 2003 season. He's since gone on to win three World Series titles and is a future Hall of Famer in the eyes of many.

He's also been tormenting the Mariners throughout his career.

With Saturday's 3-for-3 performance, Ortiz has reached base in each of his last 31 games (.365 AVG, .435 OBP) against the Mariners dating back to May 1, 2011, the longest active streak against them.

It didn't have to be this way, but the M's did what they felt they had to do that year. The scout who watched the 16-year-old take swings, however, proved to be right.

"I thank the Mariners because they gave me the opportunity to be a pro baller," Ortiz said. "Even when they traded me, it was high value. They had a lot of value because they traded me one-on-one for a big leaguer and I was in A-ball. The following year after I got traded I got to the big leagues."

And the rest is history.