updated 11/22/2013 AT 6:00 PM ET
•originally published 11/22/2013 AT 8:00 PM ET
“I can’t even describe that feeling every time it’s different but at the end of the day it’s the same. You start getting goosebumps and butterflies in your stomach,” the MVP, 38, tells PEOPLE. “Winning at home this time, I looked around and [realized] I’d never seen Fenway so crowded. It was an unbelievable experience.”
After a lackluster previous season, the Red Sox hoped to come back stronger in 2013. But a week and a half after opening day, the Boston Marathon bombers struck the city.
“After everything Boston went through, coming together as a team was easy. Something happened that nobody expected, but we all had to get on the same page,” Ortiz, whose “this is our f–––ing city” outburst at the team’s first post-bombing game became a rallying cry, says.
One way the team banded together? Growing playoff beards. “We had some crazy ones but Mike Napoli’s [was the best],” Ortiz tells PEOPLE with a laugh. “His was special – I always tell him it came from the Bible.”
He and many of the other Sox have since shaved – the “beard balls” are available on eBay through the end of the month, with proceeds going to charity – and Ortiz admits wife Tiffany is just fine with that.
“She loves it,” he says of his wife of 10 years. After announcing plans to divorce last April, the couple have since reconciled, Ortiz confirms. “She told me she liked the beard while I had it but once I shaved, she was like, ‘Oh baby – nice!’”
Next up for the designated hitter is the David Ortiz Celebrity Golf Classic, taking place Dec. 12-15 in his native Dominican Republic. Proceeds from the event benefit the David Ortiz Children’s Fund, which provides critical pediatric healthcare to children in New England and the Dominican Republic. So how does Big Papi’s golf handicap compare to his batting average?
“I’m working on that. I can drive it but the short game, I’m a little rough,” Ortiz jokes to PEOPLE. “It’s not good at all!”