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Me and My Number
July 24, 2006
DAVID ORTIZ Red Sox DH
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July 24, 2006

Me And My Number

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DAVID ORTIZ
Red Sox DH

WHEN BIG PAPI broke in with the Twins in the late 1990s, he got to know Minnesota great Kirby Puckett, who Ortiz says served as a valuable mentor to him. Upon arriving in Boston in 2003, Ortiz wanted Puckett's number 34. "Every time I look at that number, I think about him," says Ortiz of the former outfielder (below), who died after a stroke in March. "He cared so much for us. One time when I was struggling, Kirby sat me down. He kept telling me what I needed to do to get better ... to keep fighting and never give up. I can't believe he's not here anymore."

GERALD LAIRD
Rangers C

"THE GUYS have given me a nickname," the light-hitting backstop says with a chuckle. "One-five stands for One Man, Five Tools." The tools refer to a baseball scout's indices (ability to hit, hit with power, run, throw and field), and with just seven career homers and three career stolen bases in parts of four seasons, Laird knows he's not quite all that. He used to wear number 6--an upside-down tribute, he says, to Ted Williams's 9--but it was snagged from him when outfielder Brad Wilkerson came over in a trade before last season. "No negotiation, he just took it," Laird says. "But 15 fits me good."

PETE ORR
Braves Inf.

WHAT ELSE would an Orr from Ontario wear? Pete's not related to Bobby, the Bruins great, but has worn the number since youth hockey. "My teammates always wanted me to wear number 4," says Pete, whose dad often showed him film of Bobby Orr (left) and whose middle name, like Bobby's, is Gordon. Bobby finds Pete's imitation flattering--"I'm honored if I had a positive influence on someone," he has said. Pete, meanwhile, says he got his 4 before asking for it. "The Braves said they gave it to me because it was the lowest number available, that it had nothing to do with [Bobby]."

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