David Ortiz has officially earned his place in the annals of Major League Baseball history.
The Dominican professional baseball player, nicknamed “Big Papi,” has become the 27th player in MLB history to reach the 500-home run threshold.
Ortiz, a designated hitter for the Boston Red Sox, vaulted into the 500 club after hitting two home runs Saturday night in the team’s 10-4 victory against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.
Ortiz is also the fourth player in the team’s history, and the fourth Dominican Republic native to surpass the 500 mark in his career.
Ortiz hit No. 499, a three-run home run, in the first inning off Rays left-hander Matt Moore, driving a 1-2 fastball over the right-field fence.
After popping out to short center field on a 3-0 pitch in the third inning, Ortiz led off the fifth inning against Moore, greeted by chants of “Let’s go, Papi,” and drove a 2-2 pitch into the seats.
Ortiz’s teammates poured out of the dugout and the relief pitchers ran in from the bullpen to greet him after he jogged slowly around the bases, stepped on home plate, brought his fingers to his lips, and then pointed to the sky.
Ortiz, just 10 weeks shy of his 40th birthday, achieved the milestone with a three-month power surge that has been matched only twice by a player of his age or older, Barry Bonds and Henry Aaron, over a full season.
On June 10, Ortiz had just six home runs and was batting .219, a performance that invited wide speculation that his celebrated career was winding down. Among qualified designated hitters in the American League, Ortiz ranked last in most major categories.
Red Sox principal owner John W. Henry acknowledged the skeptics.
“The guy, he’s the best hitter I’ve seen for the Red Sox for a long time,” Henry said at the time. “He’s not in his prime. He’s not going to hit 50 home runs. But is he going to hit 30? It doesn’t look like it this year. Is he getting older? Yes. But I don’t think any of us know [if the end is nearing].”
Even Ortiz revealed a sliver of doubt.
“Everybody’s time is up at some point,” he said. “I don’t think that’s my problem, though. I’ll keep on trying like I normally do.”
With 28 home runs in the span of just 273 at-bats, Ortiz erased all doubts that he’ll return in 2016 for his 20th season in the big leagues, the past 13 with the Red Sox.
He joins Manny Ramirez, Jimmie Foxx and Ted Williams as Red Sox players who have hit 500 home runs, and Sammy Sosa, Ramirez and Albert Pujols as fellow Dominicans who have reached that threshold.
Ortiz also solidified his case for induction into baseball’s Hall of Fame, a place which only this past year opened its doors to a second Dominican player, Ortiz’s former Boston teammate Pedro Martinez, and has historically resisted the inclusion of designated hitters.