Beloved Boston icon David Ortiz brought the crowd at Fenway Park to its feet after making a surprise appearance three months after he was shot in the Dominican Republic.
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Ortiz, the retired Red Sox slugger, was met with roaring applause and a standing ovation Monday night when he came out to throw out the first pitch ahead of the team's game against the New York Yankees. It was his first public appearance since the shooting on June 9.
"First of all, I want to thank God for giving me a second opportunity in my life to be able to be here with all of you," Ortiz said before the game. " I want to thank the Red Sox, my real family, they have always been there for me, supported [me]. With what happened to me, they were the first supporting me. Thank you very much, Red Sox family."
Ortiz, who is affectionately known as "Big Papi," was sitting at the Dial Bar and Lounge in Santo Domingo when a gunman came behind him and opened fire. An investigation into the shooting revealed that Ortiz was not the intended target and the bullets were meant for his friend, Sixto David Fernandez.
Oritz underwent at least three surgeries after he was shot in the back. He was released from the hospital nearly 7 weeks after the shooting.
Rolfi Ferreira-Cruz, 25, of New Jersey, was arrested and identified as the alleged gunman who shot Ortiz. Thirteen other suspects have also been arrested for their alleged involvement in the shooting.
Mookie Betts, the right fielder for the Red Sox, posted a tribute to Ortiz welcoming him back.
"So glad to have you back! Love you big bro," he wrote on Instagram.
Red Sox fans were pleasantly surprised at both the appearance and how good he looked on Monday.
"Everybody stood up. It was unbelievable," one Red Sox fan told ABC Boston affiliate WCVB. "Everyone was just cheering. It was crazy."
"He actually looked really good when he came out," the fan said. "I was surprised. I thought he’d be, like, maybe limping or with someone helping him, but he ran right out there."