Holley talks Papi at Barnes and Noble book signing

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For the Beacon

WEEI sports radio show host, author and television personality Michael Holley made a stop at Barnes & Noble in Warwick on Saturday to give insight on his career, sign books for fans and describe the story of his latest book, Papi: My Story, which he wrote about and with retired Boston Red Sox legend, David Ortiz.

In order to capture the career of such an iconic sports figure, Holley said that the two would meet last year, usually at Ortiz’s house, and dedicate about an hour to going over each of his 14 seasons with the Boston Red Sox organization. Holley began the process in 2014 with the intentions of writing a book about Ortiz, but over time, it became a mutual project after the two got to know each other. Ortiz is known for his colorful use of cuss words while Holley himself does not swear, but the writer said that Ortiz was more than helpful in the process of turning these stories into a New York Times Best Seller last week.

One of the classics included the night before Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS against the New York Yankees when Ortiz visited his friend’s restaurant, Café Rubio, in Queens. After drinking wine and telling stories, some Yankees fans recognized the star designated hitter upon leaving and were playfully teasing him about drinking the night before what was, at the time, the biggest game of his career. Ortiz promised the fans that he would hit one out of the park the next day and that he hoped they would be watching.

Big Papi went on to crush a two-run home run in his first at bat off of Kevin Brown, sparking the offense for a Red Sox team that famously became the first to overcome a 3-0 game deficit in a best-of-seven series, and defeat the Yankees by a final score of 10-3 before going on to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals for Boston’s first championship in 86 torturous years.

“He didn’t know what I was going to ask,” Holley said. “I could ask a question and he would be right there in the moment and tell me [everything that happened], and I’d go back and check it and he would be 100 percent accurate. It’s unbelievable how much he was into it, but it makes sense. I know I thought he was just a really talented athlete that allowed himself to settle down in tough moments, but for him, it was all preparation that led to the big hits.”

With countless clutch moments under his belt and a larger-than-life personality on the baseball diamond, it can be hard to remember that Big Papi is human after all. Holley said the moments where he was really connecting with Ortiz on a personal level were some of the most impactful.

For example, Ortiz and his wife were “a signature away,” from their brief separation turning into a permanent divorce, but the two were able to reconcile and save their marriage right around the time the Red Sox made their surprise World Series run in 2013. Ortiz also lost his mother in a car crash in 2002, less than a year before he signed with Boston and his life changed forever. These times of adversity serve as the counterparts to his success, but also tell just as much of the David Ortiz story as the walk-off hits and World Series championships.

Upon spending so much time together, Holley said that his biggest takeaway from Ortiz was the wisdom that he possesses. Even though his name still appears in headlines and on the news, it has never been due to any crimes or scandals. Holley said that Ortiz told him that he has never had so much as a speeding ticket since making the move to the United States for his baseball career more than 20 years ago.

“I found in the first few hours, we had interviews,” Holley said. “But I’d say the rest of the time we were having conversations. I spent a lot of time before I started writing just listening. And after I listened and got a sense of who he was, and what’s important to him, it was just getting it on paper.”

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