"Minnesota is always down low, you know," Ortiz said, speaking to a horde in the Red Sox dugout at Target Field on Friday, before an 8-1 Red Sox win in the opener of his final series in the Twin Cities. "Minnesota has always been a great place to be. I was talking to somebody ... and I was telling him about how it feels to play at the Metrodome. That's not the case here at Target [Field], this is a beautiful park, this is a park that you want to come out and play.
"I know the fans love being outside," added Ortiz, who received a custom jar of peanut butter from the Twins in a pregame ceremony. Minnesota also made a $10,000 charitable donation in Ortiz's name. "Minnesota is a wonderful place, I tell some friends, every time I talk about Minnesota, I talk about how clean Minnesota is. I always love to come back."
Ortiz spent parts of six seasons with the Twins from 1997-2002, never playing in more than 130 games and often struggling with injuries. He hit .272 with 20 homers and 75 RBIs in his final campaign with the Twins, but was released by the club Dec. 16, 2002.
He eventually signed in Boston, finished fifth in the American League MVP voting in 2003, his first season there, and was among the top five in AL MVP voting in each of his first five Red Sox seasons. He's won three World Series, is a nine-time All-Star and a potential Hall of Famer.
For Ortiz, he said his career hasn't been about proving the Twins wrong, rather proving to himself and the rest of baseball that he could be a valuable everyday contributor at this level.
"It all depends how you carry yourself," Ortiz said. "First guy, they don't get the memo, some other guy gets the memo. In my case, I was in a position that, I got no choice but, you know, try to do something different. Obviously, if you don't do that, you're not going to play any longer. So I started slowing things down and made myself."
Ortiz said he was reminded of something as a young player with the Twins that he still carries with him. The veteran lending the advice? None other than current Twins manager Paul Molitor, who was at the tail end of his Hall of Fame career.
"It was a game that we were playing against the White Sox at the Metrodome," Ortiz said. "One time a play happens, and I asked Paulie, 'Have you ever seen that play happen before?' And he was like, 'No. But remember, kid, you're never going to finish learning about the game or seeing things in the game. There's always something new that happens.'"
Nearly 60, Molitor talked about the success Ortiz has had after his 40th birthday, much like he did.
"You know he's getting old if he was a teammate of mine," Molitor said. "That was the case back in '97 and '98. I've got a lot of good memories -- no specific stories, just laughter, card games, whatever it might be."
While Twins fans often romanticize what life with Ortiz could have been like had he stuck around in Minnesota, it's safe to say Ortiz likely wouldn't have the same anonymity he enjoys here.
"No clue. No idea," Ortiz said. "It's something that nobody knows."