How many times have we heard “David Ortiz” and “big hit” over the last decade and a half?
Thousands of times, most likely.
Wansel Morel, a native of the Dominican Republic and Northern Essex Community College graduate, used it on Monday afternoon. But this wasn’t about his Hall of Fame-like successes with the Boston Red Sox.
This was about an alleged attempted murder of the former Red Sox slugger in Santo Domingo, D.R. Monday night. Video showed Ortiz was shot in the back while sitting down at a night club.
He was rushed to the hospital and underwent a reported six-hour surgery, suffering damage to his liver and gall bladder. He was in stable condition and flew to Boston later on Monday so that he could be treated further at Mass. General Hospital.
“This is a big hit for our country,” said Morel, 36, who moved here with family in 2000. “God Bless David Ortiz. I hopes he’s OK.
“Honestly, those kinds of things happen in the D.R.,” said Morel, who was hanging with his friend yesterday, a barber at Five Star Barbershop on Haverhill Street near the Methuen line. “They happen to random people. But David Ortiz?”
Despite the fact that Morel is an American citizen, his heart will always be in the Dominican Republic. Most of the people, he says, are “great people.”
“I love the people and the country,” said Morel. “We want to do better. But I have a problem with the government and the corruption.”
Morel said he started getting text messages from buddies in the area and others back in his old home.
“Immediately people are saying things about Big Papi, like maybe he was messing with the wrong people” said Morel. “I don’t know. I do know he represents our country better than anyone, at least the baseball player. I don’t know what he is like personally, but you hear things that he is a great man and helps a lot of people.”
Morel said there is an unwritten rule that people like Ortiz are treated like royalty.
“I was talking with a bunch of my friends and we’re embarrassed,” said Morel. “This doesn’t look good for our country. I mean, going after David Ortiz?
“Now I am hearing people say, ‘David Ortiz should move to America forever,’” said Morel. “It is safer. But it should be safe for him, too, over there. He’s done a lot for our country. He’s given us a good name.”
Morel said he heard that the D.R. had about six million tourists visit in 2018. But there have been four American tourists that have died over the last two months. Incidents like Ortiz’s shooting will no doubt, he said, affect Americans who aid their achy economy by visiting the impoverished country and staying at five-star resorts on the beach.
“It’s a sad day, to be honest,” said Morel, who has a 9-year-old daughter. “We’re better than this. I really hope David Ortiz is going to be alright.”
Bill Burt is the executive sports editor of the North of Boston Media Group.