David Ortiz, Torii Hunter, Corey Koskie and Doug Mientkiewicz were teammates in New Britain in 1997 for the Rock Cats. The fans might have seen something special in each player, might have known each would make it to the major leagues. But no one could have guessed that Ortiz and Mientkiewicz would play on the winning World Series team for the Red Sox in 2004.
Ortiz had an especially interesting 1997 season. His totals: .318 batting average, 32 home runs and 130 RBI covering four levels of baseball.
He started the season in Class A, playing for Fort Myers in the Florida State League. He hit. 331 in 239 at-bats with 13 home runs and 58 RBI. Next up: Eastern League Double A ball in New Britain. He didn't slow down, hitting .322 with 14 home runs and 56 RBI in 258 at-bats. Off to the Triple A Pacific Coast League and Salt Lake City, where he had four homers and 10 RBI in 42 at-bats. Finally, to the major leagues as a September call-up with the Minnesota Twins, where he had a homer and six RBI in 49 at-bats.
Ortiz had a bunch of monster games in New Britain that year, hitting .512 in one 12-game stretch and at one point saying simply, "I just like to swing the bat. I don't like taking pitches."
Still, Ortiz's career didn't really take off until he got to Boston, where he had five straight seasons of 30 or more home runs and 100 or more RBI in 2003-07, including 142 home runs from 2004 to '06.
Koskie led New Britain in home runs that season with 23. He drove in 79 runs in 131 games. Mientkiewicz had 15 homers and 21 stolen bases in 132 games. Hunter had eight homers and 56 RBI in 127 games.
Ortiz and Mientkiewicz were teammates when the Red Sox finally ended the jinx and won the World Series in 2004. Ortiz had 41 homers and 139 RBI. Mientkiewicz, known as a great defensive first baseman, was acquired July 31, 2004, in a four-team deal that involved Nomar Garciaparra leaving Boston. Reliever Keith Foulke fielded a ground ball and flipped to Mientkiewicz for the final out of the Series.
That ball took on a life of its own. Mientkiewicz kept it, Foulke wanted it, as did the Red Sox. It finally ended up in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., in 2006 after a few twists and turns.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun