Dominican pals in Dot, South End keeping Big Papi in their thoughts

A photo on the wall shows owner José “Bacano” De La Rosa with Ortiz in his barber chair. Jesse Costa/WBUR photo

In the back of Micky’s Barbershop 2 on Columbia Road in Dorchester, owner Miguel Zapata sat solemnly on Monday morning, still processing the news that one of his nation’s heroes had been struck down.

“I’ve been following his whole career,” he said, referring to Red Sox legend David Ortiz, who was shot outside a nightclub in Santo Domingo on Sunday night.

“He’s the ambassador [of baseball]. I feel real bad. The insecurity in our country is really bad… I hope he gets better.”

Zapata pulled out his phone to show a picture of Ortiz in a barber’s chair — not his chair, but that of another local barber who owns a shop in the South End.

Inside that shop — MLB Barbershop on Tremont Street — you can’t avoid the presence of “Big Papi” even if you try.

There’s a massive cutout of Papi on the wall, a Papi street sign, a Papi bridge sign — and a mockup of the iconic Beatles’ “Abbey Road” cover, with Papi in the place of John Lennon at the front.

The owner of the shop is Jose De La Rosa, known in the community as “Bacano.” He has been cutting Ortiz’s hair since 2004, when the Red Sox won the World Series for the first time in 86 years.

“I’m feeling pretty low,” he said in Spanish. “David and I are friends, brothers. He told me he doesn’t give the keys to his house to anyone — ‘only my friends’ — and he gave me the keys to his house and now I come and go as I please.”

De La Rosa said he has worked as a clubhouse barber at Fenway Park for 10 years, and though Ortiz is retired and lives in Miami, De La Rosa continues to do his lineups when he’s in Boston. With news of the shooting, he called Ortiz’s father, and was relieved to hear his friend was expected to recover.

For De La Rosa, having Ortiz shot in his home country is another reminder of life in his native Dominican Republic. “The insecurity has gotten out of control,” he said. “I think the lack of education is the biggest problem — and the [politicians], the people in charge, they don’t fix the problem.” He added that for the youth, “there’s no work, no future — so they take to the streets to see if they can improve their situation.”

With Ortiz now back in Boston to receive care, De La Rosa says he has a message to send his friend about where he spends his time. “I hope he gets well soon, and takes it a little bit easier,” he said, adding that Ortiz shouldn’t go to places like nightclubs anymore, but instead be with his family. And De La Rosa says he plans to say that to Ortiz next time he sees him.

Simón Ríos is a reporter with WBUR. The Reporter and WBUR 90.9FM have a partnership in which the two news organizations share content and resources. This article first appeared on WBUR on June 11.