I thought waking up before 7 a.m. would get me a good drop on the day when I headed from Albany to Cooperstown, New York, for the 2022 National Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

When I rolled into town and saw the thousands of Red Sox hats and jerseys and an endless sea of Dominican flags, I started to realize that I underestimated just how big one small village in New York could get for one weekend — and that maybe I should have left a whole lot earlier.

Those thousands of fans came from all over, many to see greats like Minnie Miñoso, Tony Oliva and Buck O’Neil get their spots in the Hall. But the big draw for the day was David Ortiz, a singular player whose performance helped end one of the game’s most crushing curses and united generations of fans.

For fans like Bob Brown, who grew up in Boston, the day offered the chance to witness a moment in history for one of the city’s greatest athletes among thousands of other Sox faithful.

“The people have come mostly for Ortiz, you can tell by the shirts, the hats, the attitudes,” he said. “Yeah, this is a big day for Ortiz fans and Red Sox fans.”

I was greeted by a sea of blue ballcaps with red B's and old 2004 World Series shirts that only come out on special occasions.

Fans like Dede Van Allen and her adult son, Matt, could each recall their favorite Ortiz moments from memory.

For Matt, it was Ortiz’s grand slam against the Detroit Tigers in Game 2 of the 2013 ALCS. He specifically recalled how Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter flipped over the bullpen wall in a vain pursuit of the ball.

“I remember watching that on TV and that’s like one of the peak Red Sox memories for sure,” he said.

For Dede, her favorite memory wasn’t about anything Ortiz did at the plate.

“When Papi was on the field at Fenway after the Boston Marathon [bombing] and his speech was outstanding,” she said. “It was awesome.”

For the Dominican delegation in attendance, the nostalgia was even more powerful as they welcomed in one of their nation’s most beloved sons to the Hall.

There were more Dominican flags Sunday in Cooperstown than probably just about anywhere else besides the DR itself, each waving with pride for Big Papi, who is only the fourth Dominican to make it to the Hall.

"To everyone that believed in me, from my family to coaches to teammates to fans, know that I could not have done this without you."
-David Ortiz

Julio De Leon, who came to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic, was especially proud of what Ortiz had accomplished.

“Well for me personally, we feel [not just] as a Dominican proud, but as a Latino,” Julio said. “It’s something very important for us.”

The day itself was about as perfect as anyone could have asked for. With temperatures in the high 80s, a slight breeze and nice cloud cover, it was the kind of summer day that felt like ice cream dripping off your fingers.

Before the ceremony started, dozens of Hall of Famers made their way to the stage to welcome the newest members of their elite roster. Pedro Martínez got a round of applause as strong as any given out that day as he was introduced.

Ortiz was met with a standing ovation both before and after his remarks.

“To everyone that believed in me, from my family to coaches to teammates to fans, know that I could not have done this without you,” he said. “My Hall of Fame plaque represents each one of you and I'm going to thank you guys for the rest of my life.”