Wednesday, March 14, 2007

'Ortiz mourns soldier lost in Iraq'

By Maureen Mullen / Special to MLB.com


FORT MYERS, Fla. -- We're all going to get them. It's not a matter of if -- just a matter of when. Those phone calls, the bits of news that strike from nowhere, turning a perfectly average day into an exceedingly miserable one.
They may be a part of life, but that doesn't make them any easier to take.

On Tuesday morning, Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz got one of those messages. A young soldier he met last summer at Fenway Park was killed last week in Iraq.

Sitting at his locker in the clubhouse of City of Palms Park after the morning workout, Ortiz called a reporter over.

"I have a story for you," Ortiz said.

With that he told the story of meeting Spc. Justin Rollins. Within minutes, this mountain of a man -- the one with the megawatt smile, whose booming voice precedes him into any room -- was reduced to tears.

Rollins, 22, of Newport, N.H., was killed with five other soldiers on March 5 in Samarra, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated near their unit during combat operations. They were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.

"He was such a good kid," Ortiz said. "He came to Fenway to watch a game, and he wanted to meet me. It was going to be his last game at Fenway because he was going to Iraq. He came by the clubhouse, and I talked to him for a while. He just seemed like he was so full of life."

So impressed was he by Rollins, Ortiz promised to hit a home run for the young soldier. Ortiz kept that pledge, and for added measure, it was one of his patented walk-off numbers, in the 10th inning against the Phillies on June 24.

"I told him at the time that that home run I was going to dedicate to him for going to Iraq," Ortiz said. "And just today I received a message from his family."

Clubhouse attendant Jared Pinkos had the unenviable task of delivering the news.

"He came in jovial, typical Ortiz, laughing," Pinkos said. "But this just knocked him out. He started shaking."

Asked to send something for the funeral, scheduled for Saturday in Newport, with burial on Monday in Arlington National Cemetery, Ortiz has dispatched a white No. 34 uniform jersey, with the inscription, "My deepest condolences to the Rollins family. It was an honor to meet Justin and I will keep him in my prayers. Sincerely, David Ortiz."


He is also sending a ball, to be placed in Rollins' casket, on which he wrote: "To Justin Rollins, Rest in peace. God bless, David Ortiz," and another with his autograph as a memento for the Rollins family.
"It's just so sad," he said. "He's a young kid, full of life. Unbelievable, you know. It's just sad."

Ortiz paused, turned away and grabbed a T-shirt from his locker, wiping the tears from his eyes.

Though it was the first time Ortiz had received a call informing him of the death of a soldier who was also a fan, he is no stranger to the pain of that kind of news. His mother, Angela Rosa Arias, died in a car accident on Jan. 1, 2002, at the age of 46. Her birthday was last week. He also has a friend coping with the loss of his own mother two days ago.

The memories brought on by his mother's birthday, his friend's loss and, now, the news of Rollins' death have all hit him very hard, he said.

"It just got me," he said. "I think of the pain coming from his family."

"I can't believe he remembered Justin," said Rollins' girlfriend, Brittney Murray. "Well, I can believe it because Justin left such an impression on people. But I know that Justin would be very excited right now. I remember him saying that home run just made him so happy, especially since it was dedicated to him."

Rollins was to have come home on leave in April, on his wish list a trip to Fenway with Murray, who has never been to the fabled park.

"That was one thing he said -- 'We have to go to a Red Sox game. I really want to take you to Fenway.' That was one of his priorities for his leave," Murray said. "He loved baseball, and he loved the Red Sox. He told me his favorite place in the world was Fenway. It meant a lot to him."

At his funeral service, Rollins will posthumously be awarded the Army Service Ribbon, the Iraq Campaign Medal Ribbon, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal Ribbon, the National Defense Medal Ribbon, the Army Overseas Service Ribbon, the Army Good Conduct Medal Ribbon, two Purple Heart Medal Ribbons and the Bronze Star with Valor.

"It's gong to be a long road," Murray said. "But he lived very passionately, and he passed that on to me. I'm glad to have known him. He believed in what he was doing, and he died doing what he loved."

Donations may be made to the Justin A. Rollins Memorial Scholarship Fund, payable to the Newport School District, c/o Diane Fisher, 245 North Main St., Newport, N.H. 03773.

Maureen Mullen is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

4 comments:

oakleyses said...

gucci handbags, polo ralph lauren, louis vuitton outlet, polo ralph lauren outlet online, longchamp outlet, oakley sunglasses, polo outlet, nike free, louis vuitton outlet, prada handbags, kate spade outlet, prada outlet, ugg boots, christian louboutin, air max, tiffany and co, louboutin pas cher, louis vuitton, cheap oakley sunglasses, christian louboutin shoes, replica watches, replica watches, louis vuitton outlet, ray ban sunglasses, longchamp outlet, ugg boots, nike outlet, nike roshe, christian louboutin outlet, nike air max, tiffany jewelry, jordan pas cher, longchamp outlet, ray ban sunglasses, louis vuitton, longchamp pas cher, nike free run, jordan shoes, chanel handbags, michael kors pas cher, nike air max, ray ban sunglasses, uggs on sale, christian louboutin uk, oakley sunglasses, sac longchamp pas cher, oakley sunglasses, tory burch outlet, oakley sunglasses wholesale

oakleyses said...

uggs outlet, michael kors outlet online, vans pas cher, converse pas cher, mulberry uk, ray ban uk, michael kors outlet, michael kors outlet online, nike free uk, sac vanessa bruno, coach outlet store online, replica handbags, michael kors, hollister pas cher, nike roshe run uk, polo lacoste, ray ban pas cher, michael kors outlet online, north face uk, oakley pas cher, nike air max, burberry outlet, true religion outlet, michael kors, north face, nike tn, lululemon canada, nike air max uk, nike air max uk, coach outlet, timberland pas cher, uggs outlet, michael kors outlet online, burberry handbags, hogan outlet, true religion outlet, true religion outlet, true religion jeans, ralph lauren uk, new balance, sac hermes, nike air force, michael kors outlet, guess pas cher, kate spade, nike blazer pas cher, hollister uk, abercrombie and fitch uk, michael kors outlet

oakleyses said...

ray ban, louboutin, nike roshe run, abercrombie and fitch, lancel, valentino shoes, reebok outlet, mont blanc pens, ralph lauren, nike trainers uk, bottega veneta, new balance shoes, nike air max, soccer shoes, beats by dre, mcm handbags, celine handbags, vans outlet, nike air max, p90x workout, chi flat iron, oakley, hollister, north face outlet, herve leger, longchamp uk, north face outlet, hollister, vans, instyler, timberland boots, hollister clothing, jimmy choo outlet, soccer jerseys, iphone cases, hermes belt, insanity workout, gucci, mac cosmetics, baseball bats, babyliss, nike huaraches, ghd hair, nfl jerseys, converse, wedding dresses, asics running shoes, converse outlet, lululemon, ferragamo shoes

oakleyses said...

moncler, links of london, juicy couture outlet, louis vuitton, montre pas cher, karen millen uk, ugg uk, moncler, supra shoes, canada goose, ugg,ugg australia,ugg italia, canada goose outlet, ugg pas cher, louis vuitton, canada goose, thomas sabo, moncler, canada goose outlet, pandora charms, coach outlet, canada goose uk, ugg, replica watches, pandora jewelry, hollister, canada goose outlet, swarovski crystal, canada goose jackets, moncler, pandora uk, moncler uk, moncler outlet, canada goose, juicy couture outlet, ugg,uggs,uggs canada, louis vuitton, doudoune moncler, marc jacobs, pandora jewelry, wedding dresses, louis vuitton, louis vuitton, swarovski, toms shoes, moncler outlet