Welcome to the Family

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With Father’s Day coming up, Boston Red Sox first baseman Hanley Ramirez sat down with one of the biggest dads around — his friend David Ortiz. Ever since Hanley came to the big leagues from the Dominican Republic, Big Papi has been a father figure to him. Hanley brought David an engraved bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label to celebrate the occasion. This is their conversation (laughter included).

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David Ortiz
Tell them about the cheesecake, bro.

Hanley Ramirez
Oh no, man. No. This guy is gonna get me in trouble already.

David
Hahahaha. Hanley loves his cheesecake, O.K.? Listen — you don’t know how much he loves it. Tell them.

Hanley
This guy is so unbelievable. I got a story. So we’re on the road, right? We go out to dinner on the road every night. And I like dessert.

David

You don’t like it. Hahahaha. You love it, bro.

Hanley
So one night, David says, “What do you want for dessert?” I say, “Cheesecake looks good.” Waiter comes back … grande cheesecake. I crush it. Second night, we go to dinner …

David
“What do you want for dessert?”

Hanley
“Cheesecake.”

David
I’m looking at him like, Really, bro?

Hanley
He don’t want me to eat it. He tried to block my cheesecake. He’s trying to keep me in shape so I can play as long as him, I guess. I don’t know. So we get back to Boston, and we’re in the clubhouse getting ready for a game. David comes in all smiling and stuff.

David
I say, “Hey, I got a present for you.”

Hanely
I say, “For real?

David
“For real, bro.”

Hanley
He’s holding a big box all wrapped up.

David
Like Christmas. Hahahaha.

Hanley
I open the box and Boom! — it’s a big cheesecake. This guy stopped at a Cheesecake Factory on his way to Fenway and got 200 people chasing him on the street just so he could bring me a cheesecake and see the smile on my face. Unbelievable.

David
Listen, I made a smooth move. I called ahead and said, “Hey, have a cheesecake ready for me. It’s for Hanley.” So I walk in and walk out.

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Hanley
My point is, you see this guy hitting 40 homers, batting .300, coming through in the clutch so many times, but he still stops at Cheesecake Factory for me. Just to do it. Just because I like it so much. Man, this guy is like a father figure to me. People don’t understand what he does for young players who come here from the Dominican Republic and all over Latin America.

David
Hey, I’m just paying you back. Hanley brings food to the ballpark for me almost every day. I probably shouldn’t say what he brings. The trainers will get mad at me.

Hanley
The good Dominican food.

David
Oh, you don’t wanna know. Hahaha. Ohhh, no. But what I’m saying is, it’s how we are. We want to make every one of us happy. We know what struggle means. We know how important it is to have your second family. When I see people struggle, it bothers me. I don’t care if you play for any other ball club. I remember, I saw this thing that Jackie Robinson said about how the importance of life is not what you do for yourself, it’s when you make a difference in somebody else’s life. That’s so true.

Hanley
I remember when I left the Dominican to come to the States, I left my mom and dad behind. It was just me. I have no brothers and sisters. And it was like … Wow. That was hard. My whole life, it was just me, my mom and my dad in our house. Now it’s just me, and I don’t speak the language.

I remember I took the flight to Miami, then a bus to my hotel. When I got to my room, I was trying to find a way to call my mom. No cellphone. You couldn’t call the Dominican from the hotel. And it was an unbelievable feeling. I just had to fall asleep without telling my mom that I got there safe. I waited till the next day and tried to get a phone card. And finally I called my mom and she was just crying hard and I told her, “Everything’s gonna be fine.”

David
Man, you had it good. At least in 2000 they had the little Nokia phones. I came here a few years before. I had so many calling cards, bro. These kids now don’t understand — back then, every time you got a chance to talk to your family, it was like a huge deal. It was unbelievable. People be crying.

Hanley
The first thing that I did when I had the chance, I flew my mom to the U.S.

David
Hanley is her baby. His mom will call me on FaceTime to this day: “Hey, what’s going on with Hanley? Is he O.K.?” You have to understand our culture. It’s a little bit different. Family is everything. Like, I’ll see my homies back in the Dominican, and we’ll be out having a good time, and they still live with their parents. They’ll be like, “Hey, I gotta go. Mom is calling me.”

We’re 40, bro. Hahahaha.

Hanley
But that’s just how it is. When you come to the States, the culture is just different. Families are different. Some of that is good. Like, I can not believe how much time fathers spend with their kids in sports. That’s everything to them.

David
Well the thing is, our dads couldn’t do that. They didn’t have the time. They couldn’t come to Little League. They were too busy working to survive and put food on the table.

Hanley
Not just my dad. Me too. I had to work in my dad’s auto shop. In the Dominican, you can go to school in the morning or in the afternoon. I used to go in the morning because in the afternoon I gotta go to the shop. I was a good little mechanic.

David
Me, too. My dad had an auto shop, too. That runs in our little family, bro. If you ever get a car problem, come see me and Hanley. Hahaha.

Hanley
So I see these parents in America always taking their kids to school, always taking them to baseball practice, and it’s like, Wow. You know, that’s kind of like the American dream right there. Just to have the time to do that.

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David
See, I will never forget this one story. I remember seeing my dad at Little League. One time. Just one time. I used to play during the week, and the game started at 2 p.m. Even if the game went long, it would be over by five. My dad worked until six all the time. So for some reason, this one game went long, into extra innings or whatever. My dad got out of work and he just showed up at the field where I was playing. I didn’t know. But when I hit a home run, I was running around the bases, and my dad jumped out of the stands and he was like going crazy.

Hanley
Hahaha. That’s so cool.

David
He didn’t have the opportunity to see his son hit home runs, because he was always working. You know, he wished he could. But that’s how things go down there. And for us, it’s just like … it’s a little dogfight to be honest with you.

Hanley
Every day. You work every day. My kids don’t understand that. They ask me now, “Daddy, I want this.”

David
Hahahah. They do say that. “I want it.” You don’t say that in the Dominican, bro.

Hanley
We didn’t have that, man. And thank God we got the opportunity to play here and see a different life.

David
For me as a dad, it’s so cool to see my kids running around the ballpark with all their Boston stuff on. You know, my son got the full jersey and pants with his name on the back.

Hanley
D’Angelo, he’s unbelievable, man. He’s like a mini David. He’s so humble and so cool and when he’s around, everybody is yelling, “D! D! D! What’s going on, D?” He’s like a part of the team.

David
We learn the American way, how to spend time with our kids and be there for them. But as long as I’ve been here now, I still try to keep the Dominican way alive, too. Because there’s a lot of love in our culture.

Hanley
I just want to thank you for everything and raise a glass to you, bro. When I had to sign my first contract, I didn’t know what was going on. David was the first person I called. He was my family when I didn’t have any family here. Think about how far we’ve come. It’s crazy.

David
I do it because of the guys who did it for me. Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez, Jason Varitek. Without those guys and what they did for me, I don’t have the World Series rings. I don’t have this life for my kids. I’m just doing what I can to pay that back. We look out for one another. We bring each other cheesecake. Hahahaha.

Hanley
Come on, bro.

David
Hey, listen — listen. This guy works out like a damn football player, O.K.? This guy is a beast in the gym. When I first met him, he was 185 pounds. I was worried the wind was gonna blow him over. Let him have his grande cheesecake and be happy.

Hanley
Salud!

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