Doctors have removed David Ortiz's gall bladder and part of his gut after the former Boston Red Sox slugger, affectionately known as Big Papi, was ambushed by a sniper at a bar in his Dominican Republic, a spokesman said.
Leo Lopez said that the athlete's liver was also damaged and that he was in stable condition in intensive care.
Ortiz, 43, is one of the most beloved figures in sport history in the Dominican Republic and Boston, a fearsome forward with a ready smile. He led the Red Sox to three World Series championships, was an All-Star 10 times and reached 541 home runs.
Dozens of fans packed the hospital in Santo Domingo, where he was being treated, causing a traffic jam. In the United States, fans prayed for his recovery and wished him happiness, with New England Patriots star Julian Edelman assuring him on Instagram: "Papi, all of New England is on its back."
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The Red Sox offered "all available resources" to help him retrieve and sent an aircraft to bring him back to Boston.
"He's in the sport of Mount Rushmore in Boston," said Eddie Romero, assistant general manager of the team.
Ortiz was at the Dial Bar and Lounge in Santo Domingo on Monday (NZT), when a gunman came up behind him and shot him close to his torso, authorities said.
The gunman was not immediately identified or arrested, and the reason for the shooting was under investigation, with authorities trying to determine whether Ortiz was the intended target.
The driver of the motorcycle carrying the sniper was captured and beaten by a crowd of people at the bar, and police expected him to undergo treatment for his wounds before questioning him, authorities said.
Eliezer Salvador, who was at the scene, said the shooter did not say anything, only fired once. Salvador then took an injured Ortiz to the hospital, telling reporters they had a brief conversation in the car while he asked baseball to calm down and breathe.
"Do you have any problems with anyone?" Salvador remembered to ask him, to which Ortiz replied, "No, my brother, I have never offended anyone."
Salvador held Ortiz's damn belongings to the crowd of reporters, along with some of his jewelry, including rings. He also apologized for having hit several cars while running to the hospital: "That mistake was justified."
Ortiz's father, Leo, said he had no idea why anyone would have shot his son.
"He's resting," old Ortiz said. "Big Papi will be around for a long time."
Two other people were injured, including Jhoel Lopez, a Dominican TV presenter who was with Ortiz. Police believe Lopez was injured by the same bullet, said National Police director Ney Aldrin Bautista Almonte. Lopez was shot in the leg and his injuries were not fatal, said his wife, Liza Blanco, who is also a TV presenter.
Police have not identified the third person or detailed the person's injuries.
The bar is on Avenida Venezuela, a bustling nightlife district filled with expensive nightclubs and bars that Ortiz often hang out at.
Ortiz, who retired after the 2016 season and lives at least part of the year in the Dominican Republic, is often seen getting his cars washed and hanging out with friends, including other baseball players, artists and artists.
The Red Sox withdrew its number, 34, in 2017, and Boston renamed a bridge and a stretch of road outside of Fenway Park in its honor. He maintains a house in Weston, on the outskirts of Boston.
Ortiz galvanized the city after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing that left three people dead, shouting through a megaphone at Fenway Park: "This is our town (swear word)!"
"By 2013, when we needed David Ortiz the most, he was there for us," said Red Sox president and CEO Sam Kennedy on Monday. "Our focus is on your health and bringing you back to treatment."