Tragic Loss Of Oscar Taveras Is Bigger Than Baseball

aingraham
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“How can you not be romantic about baseball?”

The question from the 2011 film Moneyball struck a chord with any baseball fan that’s seen the film. It takes a special type of person to be able to sit down and watch nine innings of baseball. To appreciate each pitch, at-bat, inning. Studying not only the pitcher and hitter, but each defender, umpire, coach, bullpen, situation. Should they bunt or swing away? Leave their starting pitcher in or play the match ups? Double switches, pickoff plays, hitting behind runners. With so many intricacies and such a long season, the connection between baseball fans and their teams and players is truly intimate. And, just like with anything else a person loves, fans are stuck with this passion for better or for worse. And for many passionate fans, Sunday night was as bad as it gets.

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Oscar Taveras and his girlfriend died sometime Sunday in a car crash while he was home in the Dominican Republic. And while we cover the Cleveland Indians here at Wahoo’s on First, we’re all huge fans of MLB, and baseball in general. And Taveras’s loss is hurting us all.

I’m not going to list any statistics here because those don’t matter right now. Oscar Taveras was one of the brightest young stars in all of baseball.Baseball players, like all athletes, are polarizing figures. You argue with your friends about who is better and have your own opinions about who should be playing for your favorite team.

But Taveras was one of the few that was so bright, so good that it didn’t matter what team you rooted for. You knew his name. You saw it all over every top prospect list since he signed with St. Louis in 2008. And you respected him. You respected him because once in a while the baseball gods gift the entire world with a talent that transcends rooting interest. Players you turn your TV on to watch, even if your team isn’t playing in the game, hoping to see one of their at-bats. Players that make you say, “I can’t believe this guy is only (blank) years old.” Taveras was all of the above. Taveras was only 22 years old.

Oct 12, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals pinch hitter Oscar Taveras (18) celebrates after hitting a solo home run against the San Francisco Giants during the 7th inning in game two of the 2014 NLCS playoff baseball game at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

He could do it all on the field. That was pretty evident in the little time we saw him in the big leagues. But the athletic piece of this loss is minuscule. The human loss is massive.

His girlfriend, who also passed away in the tragedy, was eighteen. Forget about baseball, these are two people taken from their families and the world way, way too soon. What oftentimes gets lost (and pointed out, but never really understood) when it comes to professional athletes is that playing sports is only their profession. After the cameras turn off, they go home to a family. They hang out with friends, watch movies and go to the grocery store. It’s sad to think about the games we’ll never get to see him play. It’s unspeakably heartbreaking to think about those other times these two young people will never get to experience.

I have no connections with the St. Louis Cardinals. I watched maybe a half dozen of their games this season. I don’t know much about their players or front office. And this is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever written. Top prospects don’t always work out. They fail to live up to potential, battle injuries. That’s part of the game. But this prospect was different. Oscar Taveras was destined for stardom and everybody knew it. And I obviously didn’t know him, but hearing from everyone that did, it sounds like he was destined to become a great man, too. His passing is a loss for the Cardinals, sure. But as baseball fans, and more importantly human beings, it’s an enormous loss for us as well. Prayers for the family and friends of Oscar and everyone affected by this tragedy.

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