LAWRENCE — How many times have we heard David Ortiz's name mentioned with the words "big hit" over the last decade and a half?
Maybe a million times? Two million?
Wansel Morel, a native of the Dominican Republic and a Northern Essex Community College graduate, used them Monday afternoon, but it wasn't about the retired slugger's successes with the Boston Red Sox. It was about a reported shooting in Santo Domingo, D.R., late Sunday night.
Video showed Ortiz was shot in the back while sitting down at a night club. He was rushed to the hospital and underwent a reported six-hour surgery to repair damage to his liver and gall bladder.
He was in stable condition Monday and was flown to Boston so that he could be treated further at Massachusetts General Hospital.
"This is a big hit for our country," said Morel, 36, who moved here with family in 2000. "God bless David Ortiz. I hopes he's OK.
"Honestly, those kinds of things happen in the D.R.," said Morel, who was hanging with his friend yesterday, a barber at Five Star Barbershop on Haverhill Street near the Methuen line. "They happen to random people. But David Ortiz?!"
Despite the fact that Morel is an American citizen, his heart will always be in the Dominican Republic. Most of the people, he said, are "great people."
"I love the people and the country," he said. "We want to do better. But I have a problem with the government and the corruption."
Morel said he's been getting text messages about Ortiz from buddies in the this area and others back in his old home.
"Immediately people are saying things about Big Papi, like maybe he was messing with the wrong people" said Morel. "I don't know. I do know he represents our country better than anyone, at least the baseball players. I don't know what he is like personally, but you hear things that he is a great man and helps a lot of people."
Morel said there is an unwritten rule in the Dominican Republic that people like Ortiz are treated like royalty, but like anywhere else, there are people who are good and some who are bad.
"I was talking with a bunch of my friends and we're embarrassed," said Morel. "This doesn't look good for our country. I mean, going after David Ortiz?
"Now I am hearing people say, 'David Ortiz should move to America forever. It is safer,'" he said. "But it should be safe for him, too, over there. He's done a lot for our country. He's given us a good name."
Morel said he heard that the D.R. had about 6 million tourists visit in 2018. But at least four American tourists have died there over the last two months, and he said incidents like Ortiz's shooting will no doubt weigh on the decisions of Americans who might vacation there and aid their achy economy.
"It's a sad day, to be honest," said Morel, who has a 9-year-old daughter. "We're better than this. I really hope David Ortiz is going to be all right."
You can email Bill Burt at email@example.com.