BALTIMORE — David Ortiz has visited the White House three times and met two different presidents. That was the payoff for being part of the World Series-winning Red Sox teams in 2004, ’07 and ’13.
“I experienced George Bush a couple of times and then (Barack) Obama. Other than that everything was pretty much the same,” Ortiz told WEEI.com by phone Monday. “Really well organized and you get excited about going and seeing the President. But nowadays with all the controversy going on with the President, we have now and the sports teams not wanting to go it’s more of a challenge.”
That’s one way to put it
The images of Ortiz at the White House — particularly when he took the selfie with President Obama in ’14 (“I had no clue, no idea it was going to turn out like that. It just happened,” he said of the reaction) — was a staple at each Red Sox visit. Smiles all around.
But the retired slugger admits he wouldn’t be able to view this as the others if presented the same opportunity. In fact, Ortiz says if he was still a member of this Red Sox contingent he would be in lock-step with manager Alex Cora and decline the opportunity to meet President Donald Trump.
“Of course, bro,” he said when asked if he would follow suit with Cora’s decision. “Alex is in a tough spot right now, going there and acting like nothing is happening. It’s like you are going to shake hands with the enemy. Think about it, all the stuff that has been going on since he took office. People are angry. People are mad. He has divided people, that’s how it feels like.”
Like Cora — who is not attending Thursday’s White House celebration due to the government approach toward rebuilding hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico — Ortiz’s stance is based in a specific reason.
“I don’t think it’s the political side of it. I think it’s more of what is going on,” he said. “I’m an immigrant. When it comes down to the political side of it I don’t know much about politics and things like that. But when it comes down the way immigrants have been treated it’s something that goes a long way. You don’t want to go and shake hands with a guy who is treating immigrants like (expletive) because I’m an immigrant.”
Ortiz, who became a United States citizen in 2008 after growing up in the Dominican Republic, is clearly passionate when it comes to the topic of immigration and how Trump has handled the issue. It is the same sort of tone exuded by Cora when talking about his native Puerto Rico.
“Put it this way, in sports, it’s more likely a big percentage of black people and Spanish people are decedents from immigrants,” he said. “So once you see what is going in this country based on being an immigrant or being black it’s something that goes beyond going into the White House and shaking hands with the President just because. That’s the situation that everyone is facing right now. I’m not saying everything Donald Trump is doing is bad but I guess he started off on the wrong foot.
“This is critical. What is going on right now is critical. Listen, when I first came into this country the one thing I always have been proud of is learning how to stay together. That’s one thing that I’m proud of coming into this country. That’s not the situation right now.”