Rising MLB star killed in car accident
St. Louis Cardinal prospect Oscar Taveras suffers tragic death
The ridiculous bat speed. The incredible plate vision. The prodigious power.
Touted as the St. Louis Cardinals’ best hitting prospect since Albert Pujols came through their system, Oscar Taveras was expected to be a perennial All-Star, holding the potential to be, as Baseball America said at the beginning of this season, a “perennial .300 hitter with 25-30 home run power, a prototypical No. 3 hitter,” all at the ripe young age of 22. And now, he is no longer with us.
This past Sunday night, as the first few pitches of Game 5 of the World Series were being delivered, the baseball world was rocked by the news that top prospect Oscar Taveras, one of the game’s brightest young stars, and his girlfriend, Edilia Arvelo, had been killed in a horrific car accident near Taveras’ home in the Dominican Republic.
As players received the news, Twitter exploded, and several television shots of the Giants’ and Royals’ dugouts showed players in tears as word of the tragedy spread. On Sportscenter that night, video of one of Taveras’ last at-bats played on repeat, showing a young man blasting a pinch-hit, game-tying home run in Game 2 of the NLCS before receiving a curtain call from the St. Louis faithful with one of the most joyful smiles ever seen on a ballfield.
As news anchors and TV reporters discussed the awful news, a common theme quickly emerged: This was a life cut far too short, leaving family, friends, teammates, and fans all wondering, Why?
However, another theme refused to go unnoticed. The sports that take up a major part of our lives, whether they are weeknight playoff games on the diamond, weekend rivalry games on the gridiron, or pressure-packed games on the court in front of packed houses in March, are still all just games.
The men and women whose jerseys drape our backs and whose autographs we pine after are still just men and women.
What we tend to forget among the game-winning shots and failed comebacks is that horrible things happen to people sometimes. Senzo Meyiwa, captain and goalkeeper for the South African national soccer team, was shot to death this past Saturday.
Recently retired NFL placekicker Rob Bironas, of the legendary eight-field goal game in 2007, passed away in a car accident in September.
One cannot mention sporting tragedies without referencing the plane crashes that claimed the lives of the Marshall University football team in 1970 or baseball Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente in 1972.
Awful things also happen to those closest to our sporting heroes. Last year, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson’s young son was killed; he played the following Sunday.
Outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. received an emotional standing ovation after returning to the game following the passing of his father, Mr. Padre himself, this past summer. Just last weekend, the mother of Louisiana State football head coach Les Miles passed away; he coached the team in their matchup against Ole Miss the next day.
As much as this time of mourning is a chance to offer condolences to relatives of the late athletes and replay their most memorable performances, it should also serve as a time to reflect on the weight sports carries in our lives.
Oftentimes, the excitement and pressure of sport can overshadow the human aspect of players.
Because they can jump higher and throw farther and hit harder than us, we forget that, minus their athletic ability, they are like us, with families. friends and emotions. To take it further, as big as sports can feel sometimes, they are still just games between humans.
Yes, these games can be vehicles for motivation and inspiration and hope and joy, but at the end of the day, they are entertainment. Far more important things are happening, and it is after news like Sunday’s that this fact needs to be remembered.