I ask that you bear with me here. I don’t write any serious pieces. Hell, in the past few years I haven’t written much at all. But I needed to write this. It’s probably for selfish reasons, but I had to get this off my mind. I had to put into words the one thing I kept repeating over and over.
Heroes aren’t supposed to die. That’s the thought that I keep coming back to when I think about the tragic loss of 22-year old Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras.
Before I get any further into these thoughts, let me just say that I didn’t personally know Oscar Taveras. The hurt I’m experiencing pales deeply in comparison to the emotions that are currently overwhelming his family, teammates and those in the Cardinal’s organization that knew him more as a person than as a player. My sincerest condolences go out to them and the family of Oscar’s girlfriend.
But as a member of the fan base affectionately referred to as Cardinals Nation, this hurts. Honestly, this hurts me more than it probably should. Once again, I’ve never met Oscar, but he felt like family. And that is the beauty of baseball.
Baseball is pointless. I say this as a man who has dedicated a significant amount of time and money to following the game. But when a moment like this occurs, we realize that how hard a man throws a ball or how well another man can hit it means absolutely nothing. Baseball is beautiful because of the importance we’ve chosen to place on these action, these men, these moments.
Buster Posey played one of the most meaningful games of his career, only to walk off the field and say that baseball is not that important. That was a deep-cutting dose of reality from a man who is closer to the game than I will ever be, yet still understands that there are bigger things than the importance we place on runs, wins and ERA.
But it’s because of that collectively placed importance that a 22-year old from the Dominican Republic found himself hailed, cheered and idolized by millions of people whom he’s never met. That’s why without risking his life for us, or even personally knowing us, a baseball player can be called our hero. But that’s what Oscar was to thousands of us in Cardinal red. The man was a hero. And heroes aren’t supposed to die.
Baseball is typically a slow game. We have the luxury of saying goodbye to these titans of summer in phases. In different ways, Cardinals fans lost Albert, lost Tony, and lost Stan, but that’s how baseball works. Sometimes players have to say goodbye to a city, to the game, or sometimes, after many years of taking those last steps off the field, have to say a final farewell. We’re sad to see them go. The game goes on.
But those goodbyes should not come all at once. Not for a 22-year old. Oscar Taveras was our rookie phenom, future All-Star, and potential Hall-of-Famer. You’re not supposed to say goodbye to the future.
I would try to wrap all of this into some philosophical analogy about “the game going on” or the “promise of a new season,” but seeing the bigger picture in the death of a 22-year old with unlimited potential is futile. Cardinal Nation felt the pain of a loss last week at the hands of the Giants. This week we experienced a real loss.; one much bigger than the end of a postseason run. There will be a next season for 24 of the 25 men on the roster.
There should be a next season for Oscar Taveras.
Heroes aren’t supposed to die.