One could make a case that the tragic death of 22-year-old Oscar Taveras on October 26th was the number one story surrounding the St. Louis Cardinals in 2014. No one could dispute that it was the most shocking.
Anyone reading this likely already knows the specifics, but for the record, here they are.
Late in the afternoon of October 26th, Taveras, an outfielder whose rookie season had ended just 10 days prior, lost control of his sports car on a highway in the tourist region of Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. His 18-year-old girlfriend Edilia Arvelo also died in the one-car crash. Toxicology reports later indicated Taveras had a blood-alcohol level five times his country’s legal limit.
As the shocking news of the accident spread, grieving fans created a makeshift memorial at Busch Stadium. Thousands of mourners paid their respects in burial services in his hometown of Sosua, DR. MLB held a moment of silence before Game 6 of the World Series and the Cardinals left on the bank of lights in Busch Stadium’s right field as a remembrance.
As a tribute, Carlos Martinez requested and received approval from the Cardinals to wear Taveras’ number 18 during the 2015 season. The pitcher was hit especially hard by his close friend’s death, sharing that he had warned Taveras many times about what was apparently an ongoing issue with drinking and driving.
In a way, perhaps writing this post may enable me to have some personal closure on the matter, as well. Many others came to grips with it long ago in their own ways, but I have mostly remained quiet.
I followed Taveras’ career longer than most and had spoken with him a number of times over the years, but that is not why I remain conflicted and somewhat uncomfortable in the aftermath of his passing.
On one level, a Major League Baseball team lost a tremendous prospect, one who was being counted upon to become a mainstay of the Cardinals lineup for years to come. Accordingly, many fans dealt with the ramifications of the team no longer having a very important player.
Baseball is entertainment, escapism for many, and as a result, some place these talented people on pedestals, where they may not belong. These are same kind of folks who seem to have trouble when real life problems infringe on their sports fantasy world.
While everyone lamented about the senseless loss of young life, some did so more than others. Taveras has been memorialized, while being made out by some to be perhaps more than he should be due to his early passing.
Yes, he was a tremendous athlete, one who had yet to fully appreciate and harness his talent.
He was also flawed and immature. With money, time on his hands and bad judgment, Taveras’ reckless actions as a drunken driver not only took his life, but that of another, an innocent young woman. That is what will not let go of me.
I don’t want to sermonize, as we all have all made our own mistakes. Yet I sense a valuable opportunity is not being and will not be properly emphasized.
I wish the ongoing focus would not be on the loss of a Cardinal, but instead to use the high visibility of the deaths of both Taveras and Arvelo to help other young people recognize that their decisions could also have tragic ramifications.
On The Cardinal Nation message board, there were some who were uncomfortable with the related discussion thread being titled “Oscar Taveras’ Death.” They asked the final word be removed, as they did not want to be repeatedly reminded of the harsh reality. Let’s not look the other way, but instead talk about why it happened and how we can help make sure it is not our loved ones affected by the next such tragedy.
One way or another, every baseball player will be replaced, but the grieving Taveras and Arvelo families cannot ever replace the two young lives lost. Taveras’ infant son will grow up with no father.
That is why this is a top story for me.
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