First thing’s first, I am a die-hard Yankee fan. I’ve spent my whole life in New York. I’ve gone to countless games at the Stadium in the Bronx. With the territory comes the obvious fact that I’ve grown to hate the Boston Red Sox, and their leader David Ortiz. I’ve hated them for as long as I remember, but as Big Papi wrapped up his career this past season, I only have two words for him. Thank you.

A year ago, I wrote an article on how I felt about Papi. Sure, he’s been a villain to me as a Yankee fan, but being able to follow his career until his very last game has been a pleasure. They say to keep your friends close and your enemies closer, which is perhaps why Ortiz has been such an important part of why I love the game of baseball as much as I do.

Ortiz has always been “that guy” to me. It was the dramatic moments such as the two homers and six RBI in the 2003 ALCS, and the walkoff homer and single in games three and four of the 2004 ALCS that sent us Yankee fans into a spiral of anger and sadness. Moments that have brought me to the verge of tears more often than I’d like to admit.

But it was also moments and things he did for the Red Sox and the city of Boston such as his heroics in the 2007 and 2013 playoffs, the latter earning him a World Series MVP award, and the unforgettable, “our f***ing city” speech after the Boston Marathon bombings that made him stick out even more in my eyes. These were the moments when I would forget about my own affiliation and sit back and watch while trying not to smile. I never wanted my fellow Yankee fans to think I was actually supporting this guy.

2016 was Ortiz’s last season, as he officially retired earlier this month, and it will go down as one of the best final seasons in not only baseball, but all of sports history. Papi batted .315 with 38 homers and a league leading 127 RBI. He also led the league in doubles with 48, slugging at .620, and OPS at 1.021. His age-defying performance this season earned him his tenth All-Star selection, and his seventh Silver Slugger. Some saw him as a possible MVP candidate at 40-years-old. His final seasons was one of the best of his career, and put his career totals at 2,472 hits, 541 home runs and 1,768 RBI.

Say what you want about the possible PED usage, the “ban the DH” nonsense, etc, but I truly believe David Ortiz belongs in the Hall of Fame. If the numbers aren’t good enough for you, look at what he’s done in the playoffs. He ranks seventh in home runs with 17, and fifth in RBI with 60. That’s 60 runs he has contributed to his team at the most important times of the season. Look at what he’s meant to the Boston Red Sox, and the city of Boston as a whole. His time there, in my eyes, has made him a Hall of Famer, and I will continue to stand by that at every Yankee-fan filled Thanksgiving tables for years to come.

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It occurred to me over the past few years that I was a fan of this guy, despite all the trouble he has put us Yankee fans through. This was never more evident than back in July of this year, when my three friends and I took a trip to Fenway. We wore our Yankee hats in enemy territory with pride, because no matter how much crap the home fans gave us, we were all there for the same reason, the love of the game.

It was an experience like no other, and when David Ortiz crushed a line drive over the fence and around the Pesky Pole, you better believe us four New Yorkers had our arms raised high along with the rest of the crowd. Not because we didn’t want to alienate ourselves as Yankee fans, but because for those few minutes after the ball went over the fence, we didn’t pledge our allegiance to one team. Instead, our love of the game was directed at just that, the game.

David Ortiz made that love possible that day, as he has done time and time again throughout his career. And for that moment with my friends, that day, this past season, and an entire career of must-watch baseball, I have just two words for Big Papi. Thank you.

*Quick sigh of relief that he won’t be killing the Yankees on a regular basis anymore.*