Legendary Red Sox slugger David Ortiz says that, despite not being 100% healed after he was shot in his native Dominican Republic in June, he's not afraid of returning to the country he loves.
But he will be more careful when he does return — just one of the many lessons he's learned in the last 99 days.
"I spent six weeks without being able to eat or to drink any water, and you don't know the value of it until you face the situation," he said.
Ortiz was shot June 9 at a bar in Santo Domingo, a day he describes as a "nightmare," but he only made his first public appearance last week, throwing out the first pitch at Fenway Park. Always a larger than life figure at the stadium, he was nevertheless "a little nervous" for that, Ortiz told reporters Monday at Fenway. But it went away once he started greeting his ex-teammates and staff members there.
"It was like they really missed me, that's what it feels like," Ortiz said. "Walking through the field and just watching how everybody embraced me, it was a great feeling."
Ortiz underwent three surgeries — one in the Dominican Republic and two at Massachusetts General Hospital after being flown home.
It was a hard process, he said, but the doctors at Mass. General were amazing. He also learned something from the happiness he felt when visitors stopped into his room.
"I always used to love going to hospitals to visit sick people," he said. "I'm gonna be into it even more now because I know– now I understand how important that is for a patient."
The legendary designated hitter was released from Massachusetts General Hospital in July.
The process of both physical and emotional healing has taken a toll on him due to the gossip surrounding the shooting, Ortiz said, citing rumors about the motive that flew on social media as investigators tried to piece together what happened. He couldn't answer those rumors while he recovered.
Investigators in the Dominican Republic have determined that Ortiz was not the intended target of the shooting and that he was a victim of mistaken identity. Fourteen people have been arrested in the case.
Ortiz privately hired former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis to investigate the shooting.
As for going back, he said, his family is still down there and he'll definitely go back. "I'm just not going to be careless like I used to be, because anything can happen."
Ortiz, a 10-time All-Star, made quite a mark on Fenway Park, hitting .286/.380/.552/.931 in his career with 541 home runs and the 2013 World Series MVP. He played 14 seasons in Boston.