Ortiz, Martinez and Ramirez show Dominicans can work wonders on field and off

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2015/10/14/ortiz-martinez-and-ramirez-show-dominicans-can-work-wonders-on-field-and-off/

They are some of the biggest names in recent Boston Red Sox lore: Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez, David “Big Papi” Ortiz.

They’re also Dominican immigrants who once arrived in America speaking a different language and looking to break through in the sport of baseball.

What they accomplished on the diamond – Martinez’s induction into the Hall of Fame this year, Ramirez’s 555 home runs, Ortiz’s dominance as a designated hitter and their collective six World Series rings  – is impressive. But their accomplishments reach a higher stratum when considering where it all began for this trio.

When Martinez became just the second Dominican-born player to be enshrined in Cooperstown, New York, the flame-throwing right-hander from Santo Domingo reflected on just how far he’d come.

“I have always been able to recognize where I come from,” he told the New England Sports Network, which broadcasts Sox games. “People identify themselves with me. They relate themselves to me, because I guess I’ve never forgotten that I lived in a shack (and) that I came over from a poor community, from a poor family.”

Martinez continues to get his haircut at a Dominican-owned barbershop in Jamaica Plain whenever he’s in Boston, and his Pedro Martinez and Brothers Foundation continues to serve youths in his Dominican hometown of Manoguayabo.

Ramirez might have been known for a few wacky antics and a suspension over doping late in his career, but he also made an effort to give back, donating a 1994 Porsche Turbo 3.6 car to a charity auction as well as his 2013 prorated league minimum salary to a church.

Ortiz, also from the Dominican Republic capital, said in his 2008 autobiography that baseball was “something to look forward to. And something to forget about everything else” when growing up in a country where more than a third of the population lives in poverty.

Baseball has taken Ortiz, a three-time world champion, from the streets of Santo Domingo to becoming a voice for his adopted hometown following its biggest tragedy in recent years, the Boston Marathon bombing. In the first game at Fenway Park following the attack, Ortiz memorably proclaimed Boston’s strength following the events that left four people dead and hundreds injured.

Ortiz was gracious in 2008, when he was among 227 immigrants sworn in as U.S. citizens at the John F. Kennedy Library in the city’s Dorchester section, and he’s used his fame to give back to those less privileged in both Massachusetts and the Dominican Republic.

The David Ortiz Children’s Fund has worked with Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and the World Pediatric Project to provide health care to children in both regions.

In line with Ortiz’s recollections of his childhood love of baseball, the Dominican Republic churns out more players who join Major League Baseball teams than any other country not named the United States of America.

While that achievement typically means overcoming plenty of challenges – the burden of providing for a family at a young age as well as the stereotype of being lazy and uneducated, among others – the feeling of pride and familiarity between fellow countrymen has led to a spread of Dominican culture in Boston and other cities with major league teams.

According to Boston immigration data from 2009, Massachusetts was home to 7.5 percent of the approximate 745,000 Dominican immigrants in the U.S. – the fourth-highest percentage among the states, with New York first at 54 percent.

There is a Dominican Association at Boston College and an annual Dominican Festival each summer. A multitude of restaurants in the Boston area offer Dominican cuisine.

The Boston Redevelopment Authority reported that 13,386 Dominicans lived in the city in 2009, with 45 percent working in service-sector jobs. The agency said 69.8 percent of Dominican-born adults either lacked a high school diploma or had limited English proficiency.

Ortiz, Ramirez and Martinez have shown this community – and the sports world – that humble beginnings can lead to extraordinary accomplishments.

Contact Alex Jankowski at [email protected]