Iglesias appreciates Big Papi's influence

October, 11, 2013
10/11/13
9:38
PM ET
BOSTON -- Without David Ortiz, Detroit Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias says he would not be where he is today.

During spring training of 2010, the young superstar in the making began to develop his skills in the Boston Red Sox organization. Iglesias quickly became friends with Ortiz, second baseman Dustin Pedroia and then-Sox shortstop Marco Scutaro. Iglesias was slated to be the future shortstop of the Red Sox, so it was only natural for the veterans on the club to provide guidance for Iglesias, to help the young phenom who defected from Cuba navigate professional life on and off the field.

[+] EnlargeDavid Ortiz and Jose Iglesias
Winslow Townson/Getty ImagesDavid Ortiz and former teammate Jose Iglesias shared a moment together on Sept. 3, when the Tigers visited Fenway.
Following his first pro season, Iglesias made his offseason home in Miami and continued to work out during the winter months with Scutaro and other big leaguers, including the New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez.

Iglesias arrived in Fort Myers, Fla., in the spring of 2011 and it was evident how hard he worked during that offseason. While his amazing defensive abilities were on full display, his offensive skills were slow to develop. Nonetheless, he improved enough to make his major league debut that summer and played 10 games for the Red Sox.

He had his first taste of the big leagues and wanted more of it.

Before Iglesias returned to Miami for the winter, Ortiz told him to be smart, do the right thing and be ready for spring training.

Iglesias listened. So, he built a gym at his house and focused on his future.

"David's been in the league for a long time and he knows the guys really well. Every time he says something, you know why he's saying it. I just listen to him, hear his advice and get better," Iglesias said Friday afternoon at Fenway Park, where the Tigers and the Red Sox were preparing for Game 1 of the American League Championship Series Saturday night.

"David wanted the best for me. I'm a hard worker but I've been blessed to be right next to David. He was an unbelievable teammate," added Iglesias.

When Ortiz advised him about how to best approach his offseason routine, Iglesias took it right to heart.

"I didn't think," Iglesias said. "I just did whatever he told me to do because I know he wants the best for me."

That's still true, even though they're no longer teammates. In need of starting pitching depth, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington dealt Iglesias to the Tigers as part of a three-team trade, while Boston acquired pitcher Jake Peavy from the Chicago White Sox.

Iglesias David wanted the best for me. I'm a hard worker but I've been blessed to be right next to David. He was an unbelievable teammate.

-- Jose Iglesias on David Ortiz
Ortiz has his reasons why he gave Iglesias that advice two years ago. The veteran DH saw Iglesias' talent and wanted to make sure it didn't go to waste.

"Iggy has so much talent and sometimes you get caught into the wanting to have fun part of life," Ortiz said. "We're always going to have time for that. It's time to focus and take care of business and I think he was going through that at the time and he just needed someone to let him know about it. I think I was the right person to let him know because I went through what he went through in a different way, but at the end of the day it's pretty much the same thing. I want him to do well because he's a hell of a kid."

Ortiz thought back to when he first arrived in Boston as a free agent prior to the 2003 season. He was 27 and hadn't yet unleashed his full talent. Then-Red Sox players Pedro Martinez, Nomar Garciaparra, Jason Varitek and Manny Ramirez were guys Ortiz looked up to. He watched how they went about their daily routines and how hard they all worked at their respective crafts.

"I wanted to know why those guys were so good about their business and what they do. All of them, at the end of the day, have one thing in common -- they work hard to be the best at what they do.

"I'm one of the guys who definitely wants the game to get better. I want people to go back to the way it used to be. Just because a guy gets to be successful in the field, you have any doubt about it? No, because the guy's got talent and he works on it. I'm a huge believer of that. God gave you the talent to be successful, so if you work the talent is going to be there.

"As you get older, yes, it starts walking away from you -- no question. But it depends how you go at it. If you're responsible and even if your body's giving up and you keep forcing it to go and get there, as you get smarter you can maintain and good things can happen. The problem is that it's not going to happen if you don't work on it.

"Iggy's got unbelievable talent. He just needs someone to let him know you have to work on it -- period. Just like someone told me when I was younger, 'You've got to work on your talent.' It's not going to fall out of the sky."

[+] EnlargeDavid Ortiz and Torii Hunter
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesAfter suiting up for the Twins in the 2002 ALCS, David Ortiz and Torii Hunter are on different teams 11 years later, facing each other in the playoffs.
Iglesias isn't the only Tiger who has the ultimate respect for Ortiz.

Torii Hunter was a longtime teammate with Ortiz in the Minnesota Twins organization. They came up through the minors together and both made their big league debuts with the Twins in 1997.

Their career paths diverged when Ortiz left for Boston, and Hunter later moved on to the Angels in 2008. During last offseason when Hunter was a free agent, Ortiz talked to him about the possibility of signing with Boston. Instead, Hunter chose Detroit and now the former teammates will face each other in the ALCS.

"David's one of the best postseason performers in the history of the game," Hunter said. "He was my teammate for a long time. He is a funny guy. He's a great clubhouse guy. But he's someone we don't want to beat us. We know what he's capable of, so we want to keep David at bay.

"He's a competitor. He wants to win at anything. When we were in the minor leagues he always wanted to win at cards, video games, anything we played he wanted to win. He wants to win. Trust me, he's trying to figure out loopholes and figure out your weakest link and he's going to expose it.

"When he left the Twins, I knew he was one of the best hitters on our team at the time, then when the Boston Red Sox picked him up in '03, I told those guys, 'You've got a diamond in the rough.' And he's been doing great things for the Red Sox."

Ortiz also did a great thing by giving Iglesias guidance, and now the Tigers are reaping the benefits.

Joe McDonald

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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