David Ortiz opens up on shooting, darkest days, investigation

Rob Bradford
September 17, 2019 - 6:37 am
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David Ortiz looks the same. He sounds the same. But things can never be totally the same.

For that, the former Red Sox slugger can thank that night on June 9. That is when Ortiz was shot and ultimately came very close to losing his life.

"The only thing that made me mad was when you look at the scar that you have and the way things happen to you for no reason, that makes you angry," he said in a wide-ranging interview on the Bradfo Sho podcast, with MLB.com's Ian Browne also participating."But at the same time what made me peaceful was being able to thank God for me continuing to be alive, being here. It’s a balance you need to create mentally so you don’t crazy about it. I have seen people before where worse situations happen where they either can’t survive or the rest of their life is a struggle. Thank God that’s not my case. I went through a tough situation but I’m on my way back to being normal. So I’m grateful."

Ortiz has been slowly re-emerging into the public eye, initially throwing out the first pitch at Fenway Park exactly three months after his incident in the Dominican Republic and then offering details of his existence in the park's interview room Monday afternoon. He continues to rediscover the ability to function in a normal capacity while getting ready to assume his usual postgame television duties for Major League Baseball's postseason.

There is a lot of catching up to do.

There is the story of the night Ortiz was shot in the back, the moments after when a good samaritan got him to the hospital in seven minutes (half the time the trip would normally take), the battle he faced in the weeks following the incident and the mystery that still surrounds the case.

"I have no clue. I have no clue," Ortiz said when asked if he had any idea why he was shot. "It’s more based on being in the wrong place at the wrong time.'

While a description of the incident itself is eye-opening, the revelation of Ortiz's low point is perhaps the most surprising. As he explained, it wasn't until the days after he was transported to Boston and Massachusetts General Hospital where the real challenge began.

That was when the doctors at Mass General discovered a bacterial infection they told Ortiz the medical staff had never previously encountered.

"I started getting scared about this once I was going through the process," he said. "That I had to get a third surgery. After I’m here, yeah, because now I know what I’m dealing with. Now I know where I got damaged and I know that those parts weren't working the way the doctor expects. They started talking about a third surgery. Then, when I was hearing all that because you get scared, when that happens, you get scared because you don’t know if you’re going to be able to survive. But then I survived and my next thing to worry about was, what am I going to be like after everything? That’s when you really start worrying about things.”

"I thought I wasn’t going to be able to be who I am right now and go back to normal, you know? At some point, I started losing hope because I have a second surgery that basically was going to be … it was basically they went into to make sure everything that they did back home was the right thing to do. And I don’t know if that counts as a surgery or not, but they went in. You expect things to start going back to normal at some point because they figured everything was fine but then all of a sudden, I got this bacteria that they had never seen before."

Just as Ortiz felt he was in the wrong place at the wrong time during the night in the Dominican Republic, his presence in Boston -- where he had been transported to via a specially equipped plane ("To be honest with you I didn’t feel any of that (expletive). I was still doped up from the medication. I remember one thing. I remember telling my Dad, ‘Dad, cover my feet. I’m feeling a little cold.’ And then I passed out. The next time I woke up was when I got to Mass. General. I don’t even know when they took me out of the airplane once I got here. All I know is I opened my eyes once I got out of the ambulance going into Mass. General and then, boom, pass out again.") -- was the right place at the right time.

"It is the best thing that can ever happen to a guy … that was the best thing that happened to me, to be honest with you," Ortiz said. "At Mass. General, they discovered that this bullet gave me a bacteria that they had never seen before. And you know if they had never seen it before, we’re going to put some things together. They had this team, anti-bacteria team who, man, these people, they were on me like nothing before. They were really on me, hard, because they want to get this out of my body. The reality is they did, man, but they fought with it."

The story of the days during Ortiz's recovery included the physical and the mental. And part of the latter was coming to grips why this whole thing happened.

Almost immediately following the shooting theories were surfaced regarding the motivation behind the attack. Ultimately, the officials in the Dominican Republic determined that this was a case of mistaken identity. 

"There were so many rumors out there," he said. "But like I told them the Dominican is a country that social media informs you somehow ... because there is no consequence. There are people that they come out there with some things that aren’t true just because they want to get followed or get some likes. There are a lot of rumors, a lot of bad things came out but none of them were related to what really happened to me. That’s why I hired an investigator (former Boston police chief Ed Davis) to make sure what I was told by the Dominican authorities was it. That’s how it has been. I can complain about that, but … That’s why I feel like I want to have this type of conversation with you all so you all get to know what really happened. I don’t really know what end up happening, what was the reason. But I have no choice to guide myself based on what the Dominican authorities told me."

The next step to the recovery process? Ultimately returning home to the Dominican Republic.

"I feel safe. I feel fine," Ortiz said. "I’m just not going to be walking around back home like I used to. It’s not like I feel safe, safe, safe because people get shot in this country also. But I don’t have no problem with nobody so I don’t feel like I have to be all full of fear and stuff like that. Sometimes situations happen to you because you either case less … In my case I never thought something like that would happen to me, especially back home. But once it happens you have to be more careful.

"I’m a strong person mentally. I have seen things worse happening to people and people get through it. So I guess that’s going to my case."

MORE FROM ORTIZ

On the night of the incident: "All can remember is that I had a wonderful day that day with my kids. I went to a facility where they were driving cars and playing around and all of a sudden I decided to go with a friend of mine. This one place, it’s a very nice place, a lot of big-time people go and I sit down and have a drink, and all of a sudden, I got shot. It’s something that I will not forget about.”

"I was there for an hour and a half, two hours. Hanging out, having conversations with people. This place wasn’t a club. This place was like, on a patio, kind of type of place where you go have lunch, have a drink, go have conversation. That was a little confusing for people here when they first started talking about it, that it was a club. It wasn’t a club. It was an outdoor patio basically where you just sit down and they serve you."

What it was like to get shot: "I mean, I got shot and to be honest, I wasn’t hurting. I don’t know if …. No, I didn’t feel it. I felt like a little burn but I don’t even look at that. I know that I was hurting because of the impact and the sound. I started hurting later, probably when I was about to walk into the surgery.”

"You don’t want to know! I guess everybody is different so it all depends. In my case, the only explanation I can give you is that I feel like something was burning and I was basically losing … you know how your body needs to have a certain point so you stabilize and you know what you’re doing? I felt like that was walking away from me, at some point. Not right away, but at some point, I wasn’t feeling as strong as I feel and I guess it was because I was bleeding and that’s what happens when you get shot, I guess."

On it was like at the hospital: "To be honest with you, right before the doctors got me into the room, I started feeling this weird pain and then I started getting worried right there. But I was already all taken care of, basically, the doctor told me, don’t’ worry, we got you, we’re going to take care of you. Then I passed out. They put me on [anesthesia>, so I didn’t get to know any more about me until the next day.

"The hospital got loaded, an hour after, I guess, but the doctors and everybody couldn’t believe it was me that was on that bed, you know what I’m saying? The news had gone across the country right away in less than an hour. I know there’s a lot of people, they were like, man, they say that you got shot and the news was spreading out, I thought it was somebody [kidding> me or something like that.  A lot of people thought it wasn’t true, that I got shot, sitting in a bar and stuff like that. You don’t see that every day."