A jovial young man, a budding superstar, lost too soon

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Toward the end of the regular season, I joked with Oscar Taveras that he had been around long enough that he could stop calling me ‘ma’am’ during each of our interactions. I told him it made me feel old, though, in fairness, I guess I was to him, a 22-year-old kid. He laughed and noted that he probably wouldn’t be able to break the habit. That’s how he had been taught, he added.

And then he shook my hand.

Almost every one of our conversations — and goodness, now I know we didn’t have enough of them — ended with a handshake and a smile. Always gracious with his time and ever eager to show off how far his English speaking skills had come, Taveras brought joy to my job. He had such a sweet swing, but also the heart to match it. I’m glad I got to know that part of him, too.

For all the negative storylines that may have emerged from his season — Would he live up to the hype? Could he get in shape? Did he fit in the clubhouse? — there was never one iota of doubt that Taveras loved what he did. He was a respectful young man, trying to find his way in a game that had always come so naturally to him. Had he been given the chance to have a full career, I’m sure he would have gotten there.

We’ll always remember this…

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2014_05_31_sfnmlb_slnmlb_1&mode=video&content_id=33333153&tcid=vpp_copy_33333153

And this…

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2014_10_12_sfnmlb_slnmlb_1&mode=video&content_id=36800103&tcid=vpp_copy_36800103

Those were two swings that, now we know, bookended a career cut so tragically short.

The emotions are still raw, the suddenness of this all too real. As the baseball world was getting ready to tune into Game 5 of the World Series, general manager John Mozeliak received a phone call that punched him in his gut. Manager Mike Matheny declined interview requests, noting he couldn’t get himself composed enough to speak publically just yet.

Matheny has worked hard to create a clubhouse culture where players and staff are like family. You’ll understand, then, why this hits the organization like the loss of a family member.

The Cardinals will release further information on funeral arrangements in the coming days. More information about the accident will also be learned.

For now, let me direct you to MLB.com’s coverage of this tragedy and the memories that remain of a kid with such a genuine love for life and baseball:

Follow me on Twitter (@LangoschMLB), Instagram (LangoschMLB) and Facebook (Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com)

9 Comments

Thank you for this. RIP Oscar.

A very nice remembrance of a player I didn’t feel like I got a chance to “know”, as a fan. Such a tragic loss to his family and baseball, and to his girlfriend’s family and friends. That was sweet that Oscar called you ‘ma’am’, Jen. Shows he was raised well–I’m older than you, but I have come to embrace being called ma’am.

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Such a bright light, extinguished way too soon… A tragic loss to his Parents, family and friends, to Cardinal Nation and to the world of baseball in general, where I’m sure he would have found his way to real stardom, given time. Your article helped me to know that he was also a very nice person, out of the spotlight. Thanks for that…

Jenifer — I’m sure you “wrote this through tears.”Well done; sounds like this guy was an “actual nice person” despite his great talent and position in the limelight which no doubt turns most of us into, well, let’s just say semi-humans.

Jenifer, do you have any thoughts on whether or not the organization will have a memorial service in StL? Thanks for the excellent writing, as usual.

Very nice remembrance. Thank you for sharing your feelings as one who knew him all too briefly.

Jenifer: Great piece on Oscar. Sounded like he was an actual good guy in addition to a great athlete. This is just heart breaking. Still. Forever will be. Ugh. Thank you for sharing!

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