In his first interview since the incident, Ortiz, 43, emotionally recalled details of the night he was shot and explained the difficulties he’s faced during his recovery.
The former MLB star was shot in the back at a nightclub in his hometown in the Dominican Republic on June 9.
“When the bullet hit me, the first thing I felt was like a sting,” Ortiz explained. “The first five seconds I thought I was having a nightmare. [Then] a man named Eliezer, who I am very thankful for, he helped me and took me to the hospital.”
The former Boston Red Sox star added, “I was feeling something that I had never felt before and that was just the feeling of trying to survive.”
On Monday, Ortiz made his first public appearance since being shot when he stepped out at Fenway Park to throw the first pitch of the Red Sox’s game against the New York Yankees.
“I want to thank God for giving me a second opportunity in my life to be here with all of you,” Ortiz told the crowd after emerging from the dugout to a standing ovation, according to ESPN. “I want to thank the Red Sox, my real family. They always have been there for me, supporting me … They were the first ones there supporting me.”
“I want to thank you for all for your prayers, all of them came home,” he added before throwing the ball to his former teammate Jason Varitek.
Ortiz, affectionately known as “Big Papi” by baseball fans, reportedly watched the game from a first-row seat next to the Red Sox’s dugout, and during the first inning gifted his number 34 home jersey to a young boy seated a few rows behind him.
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Ortiz’s homecoming came just a few weeks after he was released from Massachusetts General Hospital, where he was being treated.
The bullet, which went straight through his stomach, caused damage to his intestines and liver. Ortiz underwent three surgeries as a result, and is now continuing his rehabilitation from home.
“They are some of the best teammates I have ever had,” he said of his medical care team, also thanking fans for “the prayers and good wishes from the Dominican Republic and Red Sox Nation.”