For a change, David Ortiz was speechless.

Big Papi, the man with a smile and a hug for just about anyone he meets, didn’t know what to say to his kids on Friday night. They had just watched their father trigger a bench-clearing brawl with the Baltimore Orioles, and they wanted to know why.

“My kids had tons of questions for me (Friday) night. ‘Hey, who are you fighting,’ ” said Ortiz. “I don’t want to be having that kind of conversation with my kids. I don’t know what to tell them. After all, you look at the whole picture and it’s not what you really want to be involved in. Fans come to enjoy the game, to see how good you can play the game.”

Ortiz has been playing the game very well, thank you. That’s why he’s playing in tonight’s All-Star game in Arizona.

Ortiz is hitting .304 with 55 RBI and a team-leading 19 home runs.

He started the season strongly and never looked back. Stunningly, he is hitting better against lefties (.333) than he is against right-handed pitchers (.291). That’s a remarkable turnaround from last season, when he hit .222 against southpaws.


Through it all, the good times and struggles, Ortiz has remained one of the game’s most popular players. It is rare that you don’t see him chatting it up with opposing players during batting practice.

That’s why it was such a natural for Major League Baseball to choose Ortiz as the first captain of the AL Home Run Derby team. He got to choose his lineup for Monday night’s slugfest, wearing an ear-to-ear grin through the entire process.

It’s also why it was so jarring to see him charging the mound in a rage Friday night. Ortiz, all 6-foot-4, 230 pounds of him, came at the 6-7, 230-pound Kevin Gregg.

No punches landed, but notice was served. Big Papi isn’t fooling around when he’s digging in at the plate.

A day later, Papi admitted he was “not proud” of his actions. He also said Gregg disrespected him, and that he had no plans to apologize to the pitcher.

Like the rest of New England, Ortiz has seen the replay of the fight plenty of times. After Friday night’s game, he and teammates gathered at Jerry Remy’s restaurant near Fenway.


Everywhere he looked, the fight was being played … and his teammates were reliving the blow-by-blow.

“At one point I was like, ‘You know what? I have to go,’ ” said Ortiz. “Can you play something else? Everybody was all over me. ‘Hey, Mike Tyson!’ Come on, man, I haven’t fought since I was in kindergarten.”

Ortiz told me he lost that fight, so many years ago in the Dominican. Friday night’s bout was a draw.

But it could go down as one of those moments that draws a team together.

Papi smiled at the thought of his team coming together.

And while he wasn’t smiling when he sprinted into the fray Friday night, he may have led a charge that could stretch well into the second half of the season.

Tom Caron is the studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on the New England Sports Network. His column appears in the Press Herald on Tuesdays.


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