BOSTON — For 20 years, Hector Pina has run a small Dominican haven on Blue Hill Avenue, in Roxbury. At his restaurant, Merengue, at lunch time, the phone rings nearly continuously, and the big brown bags of take-out filled with seafood dishes and fried chicken appear on the counter in steady succession.
World Series MVP David Ortiz, a fellow Dominican, has been going there for a long time.
“He’s been my customer since he was with the Twins,” Pina says. “When he was a visitor team with the Minnesota Twins, he was my customer here at Merengue restaurant. So he came to Boston [in 2003], then our friendship became closer, so we’re really good friends.”
Photos of Ortiz line a wall. One picture is autographed.
“It says: ‘For my brothers, Hector and Niva,’ which is my wife,” Pina says. “‘Sebastian,’ which is my son, ‘Merengue Restaurant, God bless you. You guys the best. David Ortiz.’ ”
So of course, Wednesday night, Pina was at the clinching Game 6.
“We as a community are really proud of him,” he says. “Because of the values that he represents, the way he carries himself in and out of the game, his leadership. For me, he’s the face of the team. If you think Boston Red Sox, automatically, you think David Ortiz.”
Pina is wearing a Boston Athletic Association ballcap. He did not run in the Marathon, but says it’s close to his heart now.
“What happened here during the Boston Marathon and the way the city held up and stayed together and made the city really stronger, and with this championship, with the Boston Red Sox, it feels even better that after that tragedy that we could raise and accomplish something that since 1918 hasn’t been accomplished, winning a championship here in Boston,” he says.
In the Red Sox’s first home game after the Marathon bombings, Ortiz famously said: “This is our [expletive] city”. Wednesday night, he said it again, without the colorful language.
“You know, it was very emotional,” Pina says of that now-famous phrase Ortiz uttered to the crowd at Fenway Park back in April. “What he said came from his heart. A moment like that, you don’t even know how people react. It was like sadness, frustration, and seeing our city the way it was for three or four days brings out your emotion, your love for this city.
“We’ve been living here for such a long time, many years. It was part of his charisma, like a very honest expression of frustration.”
Pina shares a Dominican origin with Ortiz, and clearly, he also shares a sense that home is Boston now.