It was a perfect time for David Ortiz to step into the batter's box.
Thousands of young adults this week moved to Boston, and no doubt many of them wondered about the nonstop fuss regarding all things Red Sox. Some of them were at Fenway Park for the first time last night while others watched from local dormitories and campus centers.
And then, in an instant, in the bottom of the ninth inning, Big Papi was there to baptize them and welcome them to Red Sox Nation.
Ortiz is Mr. Walkoff, just as Julius Erving was Mr. Slamdunk. Big Papi did not invent the game-ending homer, but nobody does it better or more often than the giant slugger with the pajama-bottom trousers.
It must be confusing for those in other parts of the country who don't pay attention to every single Red Sox game. They flip on ''SportsCenter" and hear ''the Red Sox won on David Ortiz's walkoff homer," and they see video of Boston's big teddy bear getting mobbed at home plate by 20 or more of his cartoon character teammates.
After a while, the game-winning hits blend together, like the old days when Kennedys were always winning elections and the Celtics were always winning championships.
But if you live in Boston in this new century, it never gets old and each one is special. In three short years, Ortiz has officially displaced Carl Yastrzemski as the greatest Red Sox clutch hitter of them all, and last night he did it again, his walkoff shot against the Angels on a 3-and-2 pitch in the ninth. This one was a monstrous solo smash into the bleacher-grandstand gap in right field. It was a powerful and perfect parabola, well in excess of 430 feet. It is a feeling most of us will never know.
Ortiz did his best to describe the walkoff sensation.
''It feels good," he started. ''I know I'm going to go home and spend more time with my kids and not have to play extra innings. It's good. It's a good feeling, especially when you have a guy like [Tim] Wakefield out there pitching the way he did tonight. You want to do something for the guy."
When Ortiz struck against reliever Scot Shields, Angels right fielder Vladimir Guerrero did not bother to move.
''He's coming home with me tonight," Ortiz said when asked about Guerrero. ''I'll ask him how far it went."
He might also want to talk to Vladdy about a little thing called the American League MVP award. Guerrero won the trophy last year and Ortiz, who now has 38 homers, is making a bid to take it in 2005.
''I don't think about it," Ortiz said. ''They don't see me as a regular player. Because I'm a DH, I guess my numbers have to be way over everybody's."
Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon, Jason Varitek, and even Mike Timlin get MVP consideration in the Sox clubhouse, but Ortiz would seem to be emerging as the Sox MVP among national observers. He's simply done too many great things at the end of games to be ignored. The best thing you can say about the 2004-05 Red Sox is that they never panic and do their best when it matters most, and Ortiz would seem to be most representative of this impressive team trait.
He's believed to be the one to invent the ''flip off the helmet" move after rounding third base in the heat of a walkoff moment.
''You have to, otherwise they beat you up," said Ortiz. ''Believe me, bro, the first time when I didn't do that, they smashed my head so hard I had a headache for five days. Trot Nixon and Millar were going like bang, bang, bang on my head. They'd be like [Mike] Tyson."
Ortiz owns the walkoff, and one of his most famous closing shots was the one off Jarrod Washburn that ended the Division Series against the Angels in October.
''There were some flashbacks from what happened last year," he acknowledged. ''It did for a minute."
What about his status as the greatest clutch Sox hitter of them all?
''I was born in 1975," he said. ''There have been so many great players here. I never sat down to think about that, but if they feel that way, I appreciate it. It gives you more confidence."
They didn't call them walkoff homers when Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski played. Nobody kept track of the game-ending blasts. There's no easy way to tell how many were hit by Jimmie Foxx, Jim Rice, Carlton Fisk, or Dwight Evans.
But we know what we are seeing now and it is something special. It is David Ortiz, Mr. Walkoff, and last night he made believers out of a new generation of young fans. Welcome to the Nation.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is email@example.com.