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David Ortiz talks about beer drinking, leadership and his new contract

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  February 22, 2012 09:16 AM

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FORT MYERS, Fla. David Ortiz, who reported to Red Sox training camp a day early today, said he spoke to teammates about their clubhouse beer drinking during games, but said it wasn't his job to be "a babysitter."

"Not because of the beer or the chicken. The problem was when they did it," Ortiz said. "They came out and apologized. That means they're not going to do it again. For that, you need to turn the page. We're going to be thinking about the fried chicken and the beer that they had last September in March or February 2012? No. You're not going to solve any problems with that."

Ortiz said when it came to his attention, he said something to the players involved.

"I think I did. But I do things in a different way. When I talk to any of the guys on the team, I don't want to sound like I'm their dad. I make sure that they understand that it's a friend, a brother, another player, talking to them," Ortiz said. "That's why my communication with a lot of them is easy. I have a good relationship with everybody.

"It's not my job to walk on anyone. I'm just an employee just like any one else. I'm not a babysitter or anything like that. I'm talking to another man just like me. There's a difference between being a team leader and being a babysitter. Everybody has an idea about what they are here for."
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Ortiz said his first job is to take care of himself. Then he worries about others.

"If I'm [messing] up, I can't go to no one and let them know what they are doing wrong," he said. "When it comes to a leader, I've got to do what I'm supposed to do first of all. Then I have the right to go and talk to any one else. That's basically what I have been doing here through the years. But you only can talk until one point as a player. After that managers, GM, front office they take over. You have limitations to talk to another player like you are. After that, there is nothing else you can do."

Ortiz does not believe leadership is an issue with the team.

"We have a lot of leaders, a lot of guys capable to change things around. I think that's not going to be a problem," he said. "Sometimes you caught into some situations and things get out of hand for a minute. But the deal that people make about our club last year was bigger than what it was," he said. "That's the way I see it.

"We're the ones who know how our clubhouse runs. I'm one of the older guys here on the team. I know there's a lot of people watching me, watching what I do. That puts me in a situation where I have to try and do things not perfectly, because I'm not perfect but pretty close."

Ortiz said several times that it's time for the team to move on from 2011.

"We're here this year, we changed things around. You learn from your mistakes. You learn from the struggle," Ortiz said. "I'm pretty sure that everybody's on the same page now and things are going to be different. We have a new manager, Bobby [Valentine], he has an idea of what he wants to do with all of us."

Ortiz said at one point he thought he would be leaving the Red Sox before his agents explained that the team had to hire a new general manager and manager before it could deal with the roster.

Ortiz was then offered arbitration, accepted and eventually the sides settled on a one-year, $14.575 million deal.

The deal was settled only a few hours before a hearing that would have decided Ortiz's salary. According to the slugger, his agents wanted him to remove his diamond earrings and other flashy jewelry before the hearing.

"I was like [expletive], did I kill somebody or something?" Ortiz said. "They didn't want me have that much bling-bling. That's what somebody told me. I was like, 'I sleep with my earrings on.' "

Ortiz said the Red Sox offered a two-year deal during the process but he turned it down.

"I'm happy with what I got," he said. "I'm not going to lie to you. I'm happy with it. ... I'm back, I'm here at least for another year and like I always tell you guys, I'm going to do my best."

Ortiz also opened up a little about Terry Francona, saying his former manager called him into the office to talk about his behavior last season. Ortiz at one point last season interrupted a press conference Francona was conducting to complain about an official scorer's call and later questioned why Francona wasn't using Alfredo Aceves as a starter.

"He told me what I did wrong," Ortiz said "I think that's the best thing that can happen to a human being in general. You do things that you think you are doing are doing the right thing but you ain't. ... It was something that I should not do because I have young guys looking up to me. He didn't want them to get the wrong idea about things. It wasn't a big deal."

Francona called Ortiz earlier this month to congratulate him on his new contract and told him he couldn't imagine him in another uniform.

At 36, Ortiz is now the oldest and longest-tenured member of the team with Tim Wakefield retiring and Jason Varitek no longer with the team and expected to retire.

He called Wakefield a few days ago to wish him well and has a message out to Varitek.

"Not good," Ortiz said with a laugh when asked how it felt to be the oldest player on the team.

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