WASHINGTON, D.C. -- President Barack Obama, meet Big Papi.
"He wants to take a selfie," Obama said as David Ortiz, while presenting the president with a No. 44 Red Sox home jersey with his name on the back, reached for his phone and drew him close for a photo he tweeted after the ceremony honoring Boston for its 2013 World Series championship.
- David Ortiz (@davidortiz) April 1, 2014"I love this country," Ortiz also tweeted during the Red Sox's private tour of the White House prior to the ceremony on the South Lawn on Tuesday morning. Immediately afterward, Red Sox players and coaches and manager John Farrell headed to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to visit wounded veterans.
Obama, who walked from the Oval Office in the company of Red Sox owners John W. Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino, gave a vigorous handshake to Dustin Pedroia then shook hands with Farrell, general manager Ben Cherington and Ortiz, who also gave him a hug.
In his remarks, the president mentioned rookie Xander Bogaerts, "fellow Hawaiian" Shane Victorino (who did not make the trip because of illness), pitchers John Lackey and Jon Lester, Mike Napoli (which he mispronounced as Na-POLE-ee) and "of course, the legend, the only man to play for all three championship teams, the biggest bat in the dugout, Big Papi."
"Love this guy," Obama said. "Even a White Sox fan can appreciate these guys."
Jonny Gomes, who attended the ceremony as the only player sporting the red, white and blue blazers he had handed out in the clubhouse during spring training, drew special praise for the three-run homer he hit in Game 4 of the World Series. Obama also was presented with a similar jacket, signed by the team.
"He approved," Gomes said when asked what Obama thought of his attire.
Obama then paid tribute to Japanese closer Koji Uehara for what he called one of the great postseason performances in major league history, "with his signature splitter that sank straight into David Ross' mitt to win the World Series."
"Him mentioning my name," Uehara said through translator Shigenari Matsumoto, "was a very special moment."
The event was attended by Vice President Joe Biden, members of the New England congressional delegation and United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power, a rabid Sox fan (Nomar Garciaparra was a big favorite) who used to scour the Internet during assignments in Bosnia and other international postings in the middle of the night seeking scores and other news of the team.
Obama, who as a Chicagoan has made no secret of his affection for the White Sox, noted that he was surrounded by Red Sox fans in his administration, including official White House photographer Pete Souza and press secretary Jay Carney, who posted a photo of himself wearing a Red Sox cap.
In addition to the moments of levity, Obama used the occasion to invoke memories of the Boston Marathon bombings and acknowledged the leadership of Mayor Thomas Menino and bravery of Richard Donahue, the MBTA transit policeman who was shot in the aftermath of the bombings. Both were in attendance, as were the families of two Boston firefighters, Michael Kennedy and Edward Walsh, who died in last week's Back Bay fire.
"And we knew last year, even as we mourned the lost and cared for the wounded and resolved to carry on, that the moment would come when the Sox would be champions again and the crowds would gather for a parade down Boylston once more," Obama said. "And that's exactly what happened. That's how this team helped Boston to heal.
"And true to that spirit, in just a few weeks, something else we resolved last year will come to pass: On the third Monday in April, the world will return to Boston and run harder than ever and cheer louder than ever for the 118th Boston Marathon. That will happen."
After the ceremony, as Obama walked back to his office, he had a quick answer for a question called out from the media contingent.
"White Sox next year," he said.