Red Sox slugger Ortiz records wake-up calls for Boston kids


BOSTON (AP) — Nothing like a pre-dawn phone call from Red Sox slugger David Ortiz to get you out of bed in the morning.

At least that’s the idea behind a Boston Public Schools initiative that starts next month, when middle- and high-school students will be able to sign up for wake-up calls from Big Papi.

“Wake up! It’s David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox. Get out of bed and get ready for school. Your future is yours,” he says on the calls.

The 40-year-old All-Star designated hitter has said he’ll retire after this season. He leads the majors in slugging percentage, on-base average and extra-base hits this year.

Boston schools superintendent Tommy Chang said Monday the goal of the Ortiz calls is to help kids get to school on time and fight absenteeism.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh called it a “fun, outside-the-box” approach to a chronic problem. Nationwide, the U.S. Department of Education says more than 6 million students — 13 percent of all school-age Americans — missed at least three weeks of school in the 2013-14 academic year, the most recent for which figures are available.

Red Sox president Sam Kennedy said he hopes the calls, which are being offered free of charge, will help “inspire, motivate and encourage” children to attend school. The calls will be available in English and several foreign languages, though Ortiz won’t be speaking all of them.

Boston’s school system ran a pilot of the wakeup calls last year, trying them out on two dozen students at the Edward M. Kennedy Academy for Health Careers, a charter high school in the shadow of Fenway Park.

Xaquiel Martinez, a 9th-grade student there, acknowledges he was tardy to school nearly every day before getting the wake-up calls, which helped him get out the door on time.

With Ortiz wrapping up his final season with the Sox, Chang’s office says it may tap the New England Patriots for a future call.

No word on whether Tom Brady or Rob Gronkowski could be rousing students next.

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Follow Bill Kole on Twitter at https://twitter.com/billkole . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/journalist/william-j-kole .

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