The shocking news about the untimely passing of St. Louis Cardinals rookie Oscar Taveras rocked the baseball world yesterday. A young life, full of so much potential and skill, yanked from this world can have the impact on a community.
And while it was sad for many of us to hear,the direct impact on San Francisco Giants outfielder Juan Perez was also heartbreaking.
Perez and Taveras were friends. They played ball together in the Dominican Republican, their home country. And, like many of us, when Perez heard the news, he didn’t want to believe that it could be true.
Jeff Passan, of Yahoo Sports, writes about how Perez found out the news about Taveras.
"Juan Perez didn’t believe it, didn’t believe his friend was dead, so he ran back to the San Francisco Giants clubhouse and swiped his phone on. He saw the text messages, at least 20, more coming in, all with the horrible news that Oscar Taveras, fellow ballplayer, fellow Dominican, was gone. Then he saw a text with the picture that confirmed it: Taveras at the morgue, on a table, blood everywhere, a horrible image Perez couldn’t shake.He started to cry. Giants closer Santiago Casilla told Perez to shut his phone off, to stop looking at the photo. And Joaquin Arias implored him: “Stay strong. Stay strong.” The Giants might need him. And Gregor Blanco said: “I know it’s not easy. Let’s just try to do it.”"
Yes, someone texted him a photo of his friend, covered in blood, in the morgue. The same photo was apparently also tweeted by Carlos Martinez of the Cardinals briefly before being removed.
The news. That image. Juan Perez broke down.
After his teammates convinced him to stay strong, and to fight through it, Perez returned to the dugout. After all, he was in the middle of one of the biggest games of his life.
In the 8th inning, with a 2-0 lead for the Giants, Perez was called into the game. He headed to the plate to face the best relief pitcher in baseball this past season, Wade Davis. Perez, known more for his speed and defense than his hitting ability, did the only thing he could do – he hit the ball. He hit it hard, too. It was a just missed it fly ball to centerfield that bounced off the top of the wall, scoring two runs, and giving Perez a triple.
It’s a moment many people don’t have in a World Series game. It’s a moment most people wouldn’t have even been able to gain enough composure to even attempt. But Juan Perez did.
After the game, Perez tweeted this.
(Note: It was actually a triple and not a double, but who’s going to correct the guy)
So, for Juan Perez, thank you for honoring your friend. Thank you for your tears and compassion, and for fighting through the struggle.
And to the family and friends of Taveras, and his girlfriend who also was killed in the car accident with him, as well as to the entire Cardinals organization, thoughts and prayers go out to you.
MLB has truly lost something great. Oscar Taveras wasn’t a legend. He may not have ever been. But we lost all the potential that lies in those young players and the impact they can have on the game.