ATLANTIC CITY — New Hall of Famer David Ortiz knows how to light up an event, as he showed last week when he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Big Papi’s bright smile and engaging personality lit up the National Sports Collectors Convention Thursday when he arrived at the TRISTAR Autograph Pavilion to sign autographs for fans.
On a day that featured such sports legends as Jim Kelly, Eric Dickerson, Dr. J Julius Erving and Mean Joe Greene, as well as fellow Baseball Hall of Famers Jim Thome and Larry Walker, Ortiz stole the show, signing autographs and posing for photos with hundreds of fans.
And he made the 42nd National a special event for some passionate fans.
When Ortiz met Brett Disioippo, he jumped from his seat and gave the young fan a big hug. Disioppo’s father, Pedro, is from the Dominican Republic and knows Ortiz and his family.
As Disioippo was getting his Ortiz cards signed, he told the Hall of Famer he was Pedro’s son. He then got the special treatment Big Papi is known for — a hug, a free photo and a moment Disioippo will never forget.
A Philadelphia native who lives in New York, Disioippo was attending his first National, and Ortiz made the trip to Atlantic City worthwhile.
“A thousand percent. It was awesome,” he said. “This my first time being at The National getting autographs and all that, so it was pretty cool.”
A Phillies fan, Disioippo became an Ortiz fan through his dad. He got his favorite player to sign two Ortiz cards, including a 1997 rookie card.
“I just love watching him play and hit bombs,” Disioippo said. “I like those big home run hitters and he’s humble and he’s a good guy.”
Red Sox fan Tom Brode and his sons traveled from Ohio to meet Ortiz and get him to sign their three-foot bobbleheads. Tom and his son, Chris, are both collectors and have been to the National the last three years. But they drove to Atlantic City just to meet Ortiz.
They spent more than $3,000 to get a photo with Ortiz and to get their bobbleheads and jerseys signed.
“He was very classy. Not all athletes can say that,” Tom Brode said. “He made my son’s day.”
“It was amazing,” Chris said. “He’s been my favorite player since I was a kid. He definitely cares about his fans.”