Oscar Taveras

Baseball just lost one of its bright young stars. 22 year old Oscar Taveras, of the St. Louis Cardinals, and his 18 year old girlfriend Edilia Arvelo died in a car accident Sunday night in their native Dominican Republic.

As I type these words, I try and hold back tears, but it grows ever so harder with every word. I was lucky enough to see Taveras play when the Cardinals came to Baltimore last August. When the Cardinals were taking batting practice, I was down near their dugout taking pictures and taking in a team’s BP session, of which I rarely see since the Cardinals rarely come to Baltimore. The thing I remember most from that BP session was Matt Carpenter giving me at thumbs up for giving a ball he tossed into the crowd to a little kid next to me. Now, the main thing I remember is the amazing hitting clinic Oscar Taveras put on.

As someone who was always labeled as a top prospect by baseball writers and fans, Taveras was destined to be the next Cardinals prospect to become a superstar, just like what had happened so many times before. He was signed by St. Louis as a 16 year old kid out of the Dominican Republic in 2008, and thrown into their farm system to be developed into Major League talent. In his Minor League career, he slashed .320/.376/.516 with 53 home runs, 324 RBI’s, 271 runs, 865 total bases and a .892 OPS in six seasons (436 games) in the Cardinals’ system.

He was going to be something special, and he could have figured that from his first at bat in the Major Leagues. In the bottom of the 5th in a 0-0 tie against San Francisco, Taveras went up to hit against Yusmeiro Petit. Taveras smacked a 1-0 pitch to the right field seats for his first hit: a home run. The Cardinals won that game 2-0 and Taveras joined teammate Adam Wainwright, Jurickson Profar, Mike Napoli, and former Orioles’ outfield Lou Montanez as guys to hit a home run and have it be their first hit.

Flash forward to October 12th. The Cardinals are playing the Giants in the NLCS; it’s Game 2 today. With one out, and the pitcher’s spot due up, Mike Matheny sends up Oscar Taveras to pinch hit for Carlos Martinez. The count gets to 2-1 on Taveras. On the next pitch, everything changed. Taveras rips one down the right field line, it stays fair. Home run; the Cardinals have tied the game at 3. I think if you asked any St. Louis fan after that happened, they would have said “This is why Taveras is here. He is the guy who is going to do this for the next 10-15 years.” Taveras had two more at bats in the NLCS, in which he went 1-2, and then the Cardinals were eliminated on a Travis Ishikawa three run home run. Little did we know, we would never see Taveras walk onto a baseball field ever again.

I’m not going to sit here and speculate or even think that if the Cardinals were in the World Series, he would still be alive, because that isn’t fair to the Giants, who won the NLCS fair and square. This was a horrible accident that nobody could have predicted or seen coming.

Life is a very precious thing. So many of us take it for granted every single day of our lives, even without thinking that it could end at any single moment. I have had friends in car accidents, and had one friend pass away because a car was speeding and hit her while she was riding her bike. Those events, and the one that happened last Sunday open your eyes to enjoy every moment you are on this planet, no matter how tough things may seem. Jonah Keri wrote an amazing piece on this sort of topic back in 2009, which you need to check out.

I would like to send out my condolences to Oscar and Edilia’s families and loved ones during this hard time. I know what it is like to lose a love one, but I still can not imagine what they are going through.