David Ortiz started his professional career with the Mariners, not the Twins. In 1995, he was known as David (Arias) Ortiz, and was named Seattle’s player of the year at Peoria, Arizona, playing for one of the Mariners’ rookie league teams. The next year, he changed the name to just David Arias, and Baseball America called him the best defensive first baseman and most exciting player in the Midwest League in July 1996. On August 11, the Seattle Times wrote about him in what’s probably the first feature article on Ortiz to appear in a U.S. newspaper:
David Arias has stirred up a lot of excitement with his hitting for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.
The young first baseman leads Seattle’s Midwest League farm club in average (.331), hits (134), home runs (17), runs batted in (80), total bases (218) and runs scored (80).
“He continues to swing the bat,” Wisconsin Manager Mike Goff said. “He’s been streaky. He’ll get seven or eight hits in 10 at-bats, then he’ll go seven or eight at-bats with nothing. But that’s just a matter of maturity. The older he gets, the better he’s going to be.”
Arias, 21, was hot last week, going 12 for 25 in seven games, with two doubles, two homers, five RBI and seven runs scored.
Arias showed he could hit last year – his second season with the Peoria Mariners of the rookie-class Arizona League. He batted .332 and led the team in every major offensive category.
But he hit only six home runs in 101 games in two seasons with Peoria, so his power surge this season has been a pleasant surprise.
Larry Beinfast, Seattle Mariner player-development director, said Arias has worked hard and “gotten a lot stronger” since he was signed as a free agent in the Dominican Republic after the 1992 season.
“He’s fun to watch, the kind of guy who scares managers and probably pitching coaches, too,” said Pat Rice, Wisconsin pitching coach. “It’s possible to pitch to him. But if he gets a hit, it might go 800 feet.”
On August 18, Arias was mentioned again, in a postscript: “Wisconsin first baseman David Arias (.318) cooled off, going 1 for 19 in five games, but outfielder Luis Tinoco went 12 for 26, raising his average to .301.”
On September 13, 1996, after hitting .320 in 130 games with 18 homers and 93 runs batted in, the Twins acquired Arias as the player to be named later in an earlier trade of Dave Hollins to the Mariners.
I remember something about Jose Uribe changing his last name from Gonzales after being traded, and people making jokes about him being a real “player to be named later.” It was the same with Ortiz. When he appeared at the Kingdome finally, on April 24, 1998, with the Twins, the Seattle Times said: “David Ortiz’s mammoth shot in the fourth made him the 36th player to homer into the Kingdome’s third deck in right. It has been accomplished 69 times, led by Ken Griffey Jr.’s 17.”