After crushing 58 home runs in three years at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., Luis Ortiz envisioned a long career in professional baseball. His career slugging percentage (.911) was an all-time NAIA best (and still stands), helping him get drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the eighth round of the 1991 MLB Draft.
“You play professionally, and you think you’re going to play in the big leagues and then eventually you’re going to go to the World Series,” Ortiz recently told his alma mater. “And 25 years later, this is the first time that really, really happens.”
Ortiz, a native of the Dominican Republic, is now an assistant hitting coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are in Boston to face the Red Sox in the 2018 World Series.
— UnionUniversity (@UnionUniversity) October 23, 2018
After three years at Union — a private Christian university whose mission is to provide “Christ-centered education that promotes excellence and character development in service to Church and society” — Ortiz rose through the Red Sox organization to make his MLB debut at Fenway Park in August 1993. That made him the first Union baseball player to reach the majors, and he ultimately appeared in 60 MLB games over the next four seasons with Boston and Texas.
Ortiz moved around in the minors and Japan for the rest of his career, after which he wrote four books about hitting and opened up a baseball school in Texas. Eventually he worked his way into MLB coaching with the Rangers, Indians and Padres, then he joined the Dodgers in December.
“It was such a difficult time to play because there were so many guys doing it the wrong way,” Ortiz said, referencing the widespread PED use. “And you’re competing in an environment that wasn’t fair. But I also grew up with a mom who always said life is not fair, and you’ve got to make the best of it.”
Though Ortiz felt he was at a disadvantage, he refused to use steroids.
“I didn’t want to let God down, and I didn’t want to let my mom down,” he said. “That journey made me become who I am today, and I truly appreciate that.”
Who he is today is the father of four daughters with his wife, Susan, whom he met at Union. And he’s a college graduate, having returned to Union in 2003 and 2004 to finish his degree — “the first major league player from the Dominican Republic to graduate from college,” according to Union.
Ortiz’s time at Union, he says, was a big factor in him becoming a follower of Christ.
“My wife helped me with that, and my friends and Union, and examples of some of the Godly men who I was exposed to there,” Ortiz said. “And since then I try to live it every day.”
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