Boston Red Sox legend David Ortiz en route to Boston after he was shot in the Dominican Republic
(CNN) — A Boston Red Sox plane has picked up legendary slugger David Ortiz from the Dominican Republic and is flying him to Boston, said Sam Kennedy, the team’s president and CEO.
Ortiz, 43, left the hospital, the Clinica Abel Gonzalez, in an ambulance Monday. Ortiz will be taken to Massachusetts General Hospital, Kennedy said.
Ortiz was shot in the back Sunday night and “the bullet went through his stomach,” Felix Durán Mejia, a spokesman for the national police, told CNN. Kennedy said Ortiz’s condition is serious, but he’s stable enough to be flown.
Police said Ortiz was shot at a nightclub in his native Santo Domingo. He remains in intensive care after being treated for bleeding in his liver and having portions of his intestines and gall bladder removed, said Leo Lopez, Ortiz’s media assistant.
Dr. Jose Abel Gonzalez, who assisted in Ortiz’s surgery, said during a press conference Monday that Ortiz asked to see his family as soon as he opened his eyes.
“He finds himself in a good state of mind,” Gonzalez said.
The doctor also said that they hope Ortiz’s recovery “will be the shortest possible,” and that he expects Ortiz will to return to life the “same as before” following recovery.
“On behalf of the Ortiz family, David Ortiz’s work team, I want to thank the press but especially this medical team,” said Ortiz’s father, Leo.
Suspect Eddy Vladimir Féliz García of nearby Santo Domingo West, its own city, and another man approached the Dial Discotheque on a motorcycle before at least one opened fire, hitting Ortiz and his friend, police said in a statement. They tried to drive away, but the motorcycle fell to the pavement.
The crowd attacked Féliz García and handed him over to police, while the second suspect fled on foot, police said. The suspect was treated at Hospital Dr. Dario Contreras in Santo Domingo and is now in custody, police said.
Ortiz does not know the man being held or why he was shot. But Lopez said Ortiz is confident the shooting was not a robbery attempt.
Video shows gunman open fire
Surveillance footage from the club shows an area of packed tables. Club goers are drinking, mingling, and fiddling with their phones when a shooter approaches from the top of the screen, the short video clip shows.
Only a shooter’s legs are visible when a shot is fired, appearing to hit Ortiz in the back. Ortiz slumps to his left and falls out of his chair. Frightened bystanders knock over chairs as they flee.
Ortiz’s agent, Fernando Cuza, who has seen the video, confirmed to CNN that the man who falls from his chair is Ortiz.
Television host Jhoel Lopez, who was with David Ortiz, was also shot, according to his wife, Liza Blanco.
“They were both on their backs. It was very fast. He doesn’t remember much because he was also in shock from the bullet wound,” Blanco told reporters in Spanish. “But thank God he is stable.”
Hours before the shooting, Lopez posted a photo of Ortiz posing alongside him, flashing a peace sign. The caption said, “You know that we are from the street.”
Suspects in custody
Multiple people have been detained in connection with the shooting, Durán Mejia said. Investigators are examining evidence in the case, including the suspect’s Bajaj Platina brand motorcycle.
National police have not formally interviewed Ortiz, said spokesman Capt. Luis Manuel Pimentel, adding that the former ballplayer was “pretty beat up.” Police will speak to Ortiz soon, he said.
Ortiz, also known as Big Papi, was reared in Santo Domingo and made his Major League Baseball debut in 1997.
The first baseman and designated hitter played 20 seasons before retiring in 2016. While Ortiz’s major league career began with the Minnesota Twins, he is best known for his 14 seasons in Boston as the Red Sox’s designated hitter.
In 2004, he helped the Red Sox to their first championship since 1918, ending the so-called “Curse of the Bambino. Fans, mostly tongue-in-cheek, blamed the team’s decades-long championship drought on the 1919 decision to trade legend Babe Ruth, aka the Bambino, to the rival New York Yankees.
Ortiz was also on the Red Sox title teams of 2007 and 2013. He was named World Series MVP in 2013.
The 2013 championship came just months after the Boston Marathon bombings that killed three people and wounded more than 200 others. Ortiz emerged as a champion for the city in the bombings’ aftermath, and his tribute to Boston the day after police captured the bomber gained national attention.
“This jersey that we wear today, it doesn’t say Red Sox. It says Boston,” Ortiz said, standing on the infield as the crowd cheered police officers who were on the field.
“This is our f***ing city, and nobody’s going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong,” he said.
Sports world responds to shooting
The Boston Red Sox and other professional athletes sent Ortiz, a married father of three, prayers and wishes for a speedy recovery late Sunday as news of the shooting surfaced.
“The events of last night shook our Red Sox family to its core,” Kennedy said. “David Ortiz is one of the most celebrated and beloved members of the Red Sox family. On behalf of our entire organization — our thoughts and prayers are with David.”
Red Sox Manager Alex Cora became emotional Monday as he discussed Ortiz during a press conference.
“It’s hard to believe, you know. Like I said, just keep praying, stay positive and when he comes back he will be taken care of and he’ll be back with us,” Cora said. “He’ll be in that clubhouse with that big smile and that huge heart. … Back home they talk about superheros without capes and he’s a superhero without a cape, that’s the way we see him so he’ll be okay.”
Eddie Romero, Red Sox vice president and assistant general manager, said Ortiz is an “icon on Mount Rushmore of Boston athletes.”
“He is the guy in the Dominican Republic. He’s more famous than any president,” Romero said. “I’ve been awed by the impact he has. Everybody loves him. He’s that guy. It comes from the way he treats people. I know that the country itself is stirred by this incident.”
Longtime friend and fellow Dominican baseball legend Pedro Martinez posted an old photo of him embracing the much larger Ortiz and said, “I’m at peace knowing you out of danger; you a strong man Compai, can’t wait to hear your voice. My thoughts and prayers are with you, see you soon.”
“Papi defines Boston Strong… get well soon my friend!!!” said New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
Former President Barack Obama sent his well wishes.
“Six years ago, David Ortiz’s spirit and resolve helped us all begin to heal from the Boston Marathon bombing. Today, I want to join many others in wishing him a speedy recovery of his own. Get well soon, Papi,” Obama said.
MLB tweeted its support as well.
“Our thoughts are with David Ortiz, who is reportedly hospitalized after being shot in his hometown of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic,” the league’s tweet read.
In his career in the majors, Ortiz hit 541 home runs and had a career batting average of .286. In the 2013 World Series, he batted .688 with two home runs, six RBIs and eight walks, finishing with a .760 on-base percentage.
Ortiz retired after the 2016 season, and the Red Sox retired his number in 2017. He will be eligible for the National Baseball Hall of Fame at the end of 2021.