David Ortiz is a powerhouse of a player who causes opposing pitchers to quake in their shoes when he walks to the plate. On Tuesday the big man was reduced to tears as he found out the fate of a young soldier that he had befriended last year before a game against the Phillies.
Ortiz said that Spc. Justin Rollins had come to Fenway Park for his last game before heading off to duty in Iraq. He asked to meet Ortiz and the two of them spent several minutes talking before the game. The Sox slugger was so impressed with the young man that he promised to hit a homerun in his honor and as a going away gift. Not only did Ortiz keep his promise,it was a walk-off shot that gave the Red Sox the win.
"I told him at the time that that home run I was going to dedicate to him for going to Iraq," Ortiz said. "And just today I received a message from his family."
Spc. Rollins was killed along with five members of his unit when an IED went off near them while they were performing combat operations.The unit was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.
Asked to send something for the funeral, scheduled for Saturday in Newport, with burial on Monday in Arlington National Cemetery, Ortiz has dispatched a white No. 34 uniform jersey, with the inscription, "My deepest condolences to the Rollins family. It was an honor to meet Justin and I will keep him in my prayers. Sincerely, David Ortiz."
Ortiz also sent an autographed ball to be placed with Rollins in his casket. The Soldier was due home on leave in April and had hoped to take his girlfriend to a game at Fenway where she'd never been.