Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, who is retiring after the 2016 season, spoke with Sports Illustrated‘s Tom Verducci about retiring, steroids, his approach to the game and more in a lengthy interview.

One of the topics discussed was why Ortiz, who is hitting .318 with 37 home runs and 124 RBI, would retire after a campaign where he’s a candidate to win the American League MVP. 

For Ortiz, his decision is about much more than his performance.

“Well, like everybody knows, I’ve been dealing with injuries the past four years,” he told Verducci. “Also, [I’m] not getting any younger, man. You look around, everybody’s 20 years old. Also, this traveling thing, it catches up with you.”

He added: “The reality is a lot of us give up on chasing things as we get older because our body, our mind, you know. … In my case, man, I want to be good. I want to continue being productive. My hitting coaches know that. I chase things still, knowing that I’m going to retire after this season. I’d like to give that to our fans.”

Certainly, Ortiz’s curtain call has been spectacular. The Red Sox are first in the AL East and a threat to win the World Series, and Ortiz is having one of his finest seasons. Even at 40, the passion to be great drives him.

“I work extremely hard on my hitting, man,” he said. “Like I’m a psycho when it comes down to hitting. Like I live for that. I always tell our younger hitters. … I mean, we sit down, batting practice, videos, stuff like that, and we just talk about it.”

That guidance has paid off. A number of Boston hitters are having enormous seasons:

But Verducci and Ortiz also talked about the biggest scandal of his career—the fact that, in 2009, he was named as one of the players to fail a 2003 drug-screening test. Those results were supposed to remain confidential but were leaked publicly, and Verducci asked Ortiz what he could do to convince people that he didn’t use steroids.

Ortiz said:

I don’t think I can do anything. A noise comes out, and do you think I’m just going to sit down and believe what somebody I don’t know comes off saying? That came out [in] 2009, [but it was] about 2003. [MLB’s] drug policies started in 2004. I never failed a test. I kept on banging. So, you know, the reality is that it’s a noise that I think was more damaging [to some players’ careers] than anything else, because a lot of guys that were pronounced [as having tested] positive for things or having been caught using things, their careers went away. Yet I am [here]. Let me tell you, there’s not one player in baseball, not one player, that has been drug-tested more than David Ortiz. I guarantee you that. I never failed a test.

Verducci then wondered why Ortiz, or any other player, wouldn’t have used banned substances if they saw other players doing so. Why wouldn’t Ortiz also want that edge? 

Because there’s one thing that I have been afraid of my whole life: chemicals. I don’t like to put chemicals in my body. I’m a happy person. I’m a person that believes in nature. I’m a person that believes in secondary effects when you start using things that you are not supposed to.

And it was something that never came to my attention. Yes, I used to go to GNC and buy supplements like everybody else. I mean, I’m an athlete. I’m a high-performing athlete. So it was legal to go to GNC. [Now] I don’t even know where GNC is, since they told us not to go to GNC to buy any supplement. Now we get [information] from our trainers so you don’t get caught in any kind of trouble.

Ortiz’s link to steroids, fair or not, may always remain a part of his legacy. So will the relatively slow start to his career. On the other hand, he has three World Series titles, 10 All-Star selections and his reputation as one of the most outgoing, friendly players in the game.

Many people will miss his presence. But Ortiz thinks baseball will be fine without him. In fact, he thinks the game is in a great place.

“Well, I don’t know how a lot of people are going to feel about what I’m going to say, but I think this game right now is at its best,” he noted. “Like I don’t think this game is going to get better, or used to be better than it is right now.”

We might say the same about Ortiz.


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