Ortiz, young fan Maverick reunited at gala

BOSTON -- As the Red Sox took the field Saturday night against the Orioles in Baltimore, recently retired slugger David Ortiz was being honored at the Children and Athletes Regenerative Medicine Foundation gala.

A noticeably slimmer Ortiz surprised his 7-year-old friend Maverick Schutte, who inspired the country last year with his courageous battle against a congenital heart defect that's led to more than 30 surgeries. Both were recipients of the foundation's first Courage Award.

"It is an honor to receive this award with my buddy Maverick. Since starting the David Ortiz Children's Fund in 2006, I have been committed to helping children and have been so inspired by Maverick's courage and strength," Ortiz said.

After learning about Maverick's condition last May from former teammate Kevin Millar, Ortiz sent the boy a video promising to hit a home run for him that night against the Yankees. True to his word, Ortiz did just that. Twelve days later, Maverick met Ortiz at Fenway Park and threw out the first pitch.

Maverick could barely contain his excitement when seeing Ortiz again.

"I saw David and I went to 100 percent," Maverick said.

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The gala marked one of Ortiz's first public appearances since retiring. What's retirement been like for Big Papi?

"I've been busy. I've been all over the place," Ortiz said. "Whenever I have some time off, I just try to chill.

"I have watched a few games. I think everyone is going to be fine. You can see good chemistry in the dugout. To me, that is very important, and they are going to bounce back."

Ortiz has been most impressed by new Red Sox left-hander Chris Sale, joking that he could probably strike out 20 players a game.

"Unbelievable, unbelievable," Ortiz said. "I knew it was coming. That's why I got so excited when we got him. He is an unbelievable pitcher and is going to help us out a lot."

Firmly set on staying retired, Ortiz said he's been talking with the Red Sox about what his role with the club will be in the future, but nothing has been defined.

One thing Ortiz does know is that he's excited to have his No. 34 retired on June 23 at Fenway Park.

"I'll be there," Ortiz said with a smile.

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