The Tampa Bay Rays had planned to honor David Ortiz’s final game at Tropicana Field with a ceremony shortly before the start of Sunday afternoon’s game.
But following the death of Miami Marlins star pitcher Jose Fernandez in a boating accident early Sunday morning, the 40-year-old Red Sox slugger asked for the tribute to be canceled.
Given today's tragedy, we are canceling our pregame ceremony recognizing @RedSox David Ortiz, per his wishes.
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) September 25, 2016
The Providence Journal‘s Brian McPherson reports that, in light of the tragedy, Ortiz “preferred not to be celebrated today.” Instead, the Rays will show an Ortiz tribute video during the game and give the retiring star his planned gifts in private.
In June, Fernandez told the Boston Herald that Ortiz was his favorite player, ever since the late 24-year-old saw Ortiz hit a home run during the 2006 World Baseball Classic against his home country of Cuba.
“That was the first time I ever saw him play, so I fell in love with him,” Fernandez said. “I was in seventh grade. And he hit that ball against a really good Cuban pitcher, so that blew my mind.”
Fernandez told Yahoo! Sports that three years later when he immigrated to the United States, the first jersey he bought was that of his “idol”-turned-friend, No. 34.
“I want him in my starting rotation,” Ortiz said during a post-game press conference. “I mean, we need a little bit of help and hopefully that happens at some point, who knows?”
During a moment of silence for Fernandez before Sunday’s game, Ortiz could be seen wiping back tears. The slugger also had Fernandez’s initials and number written just below the Red Sox logo on his hat.
Before the start of the Red Sox’s early afternoon game, Ortiz told MLB Network that Fernandez’s death had a “major impact” on him.
“We were supposed to have an event on the field about my retirement,” he said, referring to the previously planned pregame tribute, “and I told them, ‘No, today is about Jose.’”
I dont have the words to describe the pain feel for the loss of my friend Jose. Goodbye, my friend. pic.twitter.com/xvaa5z62RW
— David Ortiz (@davidortiz) September 25, 2016