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Sports Final: Theo Epstein On David Ortiz's Career

BOSTON (CBS) -- Before he became Big Papi, David Ortiz was buried on the Boston Red Sox' bench.

Signed for just $1.25 million just a few months before the 2003 season, Ortiz was behind Jeremy Giambi and Kevin Millar on Boston's depth chart. At one point Ortiz's agent even asked GM Theo Epstein for a trade because of his lack of playing time. When Ortiz was playing he wasn't hitting for power (he had just two homers by the end of May), and some of his teammates jokingly called him Juan Pierre (after the speedy but powerless outfielder) in the clubhouse.

Epstein, in his first year as the man in charge of the Red Sox, told Ortiz and his agent to sit tight. It's a memory Theo won't soon forget, as he told WBZ-TV's Dan Roche for an interview that will air on Sunday night's edition of Sports Final.

"I told them we'd do something soon to clear up the opportunity. Within a week we traded Shea Hillenbrand, which opened up at-bats for David," Espstein said. "He took off, hit 30 bombs in the season and became 'Big Papi.' The rest is history."

Ortiz had just four homers that season on July 1, but crushed eight that month and 11 more in August. He finished the 2003 season with 31 homers in just 128 games played. Ortiz and the Red Sox would lose a heartbreaking series to the New York Yankees in the ALCS, but famously got their revenge in 2004 when they came back from a 3-0 hole against the Yankees to claim the AL pennant and won the franchise's first World Series in 86 years.

Now a three-time World Series champ and member of the 500 homer club, Ortiz is set to retire after the 2016 season. Epstein, now president of the Chicago Cubs, hopes Ortiz goes out on a high note.

"I'm really proud of him. He made his career. It wasn't anyone making it for him," Epstein said of Ortiz. "He's worked extremely hard and done things the right way. His personality has taken over the franchise in a lot of ways over the last 10 years. He is such an identifiable figure and has done so much good in the clubhouse and the community. I'd like to see him go out on a really high note. I'm sure he will."

Catch Dan Roche's 1-on-1 with Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein Sunday night at 11:35pm on WBZ-TV Sports Final!

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