Ortiz’s Electrifying Attitude: An Homage to His Heritage


Photo by: Patrick Henslee

Freshman outfielder J.D Ortiz creates a thrilling energy when he’s on the field. His style is driven by his persevering attitude, a reflection of his Afro-Dominican heritage.

The crack of a baseball off the bat echoes across the field, all the way to the ears of a boy and his brothers as they work. 

On their hands and knees, they pick weeds out of the grass spotted with patches of dirt.

There’s no hose to wet the field, so they carry buckets of water from a nearby water pump and empty them onto the dirt.

They cup their hands together and drop white, powdered chalk down the soon-to-be foul lines. They stop at the end of the infield, making sure not to waste any chalk.

Once the field is done, the boys stand behind nearly 40 other aspiring baseball players all waiting their turn to use the only batting cage.

This was life playing baseball in the Dominican Republic for J.D. Ortiz, the now freshman outfielder for the Fresno City College baseball team. He is the son of Jose Ortiz, a former professional baseball player whose career took his family around the world and exposed his children to different ways of life. J.D. said the experience helped shape him into the person he is now. 

Ortiz lived in Florida, Japan and the Dominican Republic before coming back to California’s Central Valley, where he was born.

“I thought it was really cool, because I got to go to all these places when I was younger,” said Ortiz.  “We had moved a couple of times, and every time we moved I had to be the new kid. I didn’t like it, but eventually it led me to be more social and more outgoing. I learned how to talk to people and be more talkative and social.”

Ortiz did most of his growing up in the three years his family lived in the Dominican Republic and eventually adopted the way of life for many of the islanders. He says the people are loud and talkative, and their conversations have no boundaries, walking the line between playful and personal but all in good spirits. 

Maintaining a good spirit is vital when your livelihood depends on it. The island is plagued with poverty, leaving many people without food, plumbing, homes or even families. 

Through it all, he said the people shine whenever the sun does – every day. According to Ortiz, all that matters to the people there are their family, friends and the good times you spend with them.

“Everyone is just happy. I can’t think of a time when I was with my friends over there that I wasn’t smiling or wasn’t laughing,” said Ortiz.

He fell in love with the way of life in the Dominican Republic, quickly realizing that this was what has been running through his blood. It took him no time to realize that he was home.

“I knew I was Dominican, but I didn’t really know what that meant until I went over there. That’s when I was like ‘Yeah, I’m proud to be a part of this. This is amazing,’” he said.

With Afro-Dominican heritage and a love and talent for playing baseball flowing through his veins, Ortiz had to decide what was best for him, and that meant first getting an education.

When he was a sophomore in high school, he and his family moved back to California. He played alongside his brothers in Buchanan High School’s prestigious baseball program for all three years, helping lead the Bears to consecutive playoff appearances. 

Ortiz was talented on the field but worked hard in the classroom, too. He made High Honor Roll, Principal’s Honor Roll twice and attained the California State Seal of Biliteracy and Merit Diploma.

“It was tough, but I just had to do it. And with the fact that I could do it and I could get all A’s, I wouldn’t want to short myself by not trying,” said Ortiz.

After getting past the pressuring struggles of trying to prove himself on the field, Ortiz saw his stock rise as he developed, catching the eye of the University of California, Santa Barabara. He committed to playing there but found that he wouldn’t see much playing time on a full roster.

Having already known the program and its coaches, Ortiz transferred to FCC, where he now plays every day like it’s his last.

“Every single at-bat, every swing, every pop up I hit, every throw I make – every one counts. I’ll have a 3-4 day and come back to the dugout mad,” said Ortiz. “They say it’s okay because I got three hits, but it’s not. If I can get more from the game, then I’m going to do it. It’s not okay if I’m not doing my best or not giving everything I have.”

Minorities from the U.S. have little representation in professional baseball, but Ortiz thinks he’s the salmon swimming upstream and will defy the norm that’s been set for him. He will get there not through depending on his talent, but by depending on his marvelously admirable attitude. 

Ortiz plays with an energy that reflects his Afro-Dominican heritage, making the ballpark come alive. He launches baseballs with a thunderous swing and unfurls spectacular throws from the outfield, leaving his teammates, his coaches and the fans in joyful awe as they watch.

Everyone becomes a spectator when Ortiz plays, but it’s his attitude that leaves everyone wanting more, even Ortiz himself.

“It’s about knowing you can do something and knowing you’ve got this. Sometimes I don’t think I do, but I tell myself I do because you’ve got to have the confidence,” he said. “You’ve got to be able to smile. You’ve got to be able to laugh. You’ve got to be able to know that you’re going to make it.”