One year ago, we all were devastated as the news started trickling out, then was confirmed: Oscar Taveras was dead. A car crash in the Dominican Republic had claimed the life of the brightest star in the Cardinal firmament.
We grieved his passing. We tried to come to grips with the loss of someone so talented at such a young age. We saw the emotion that overcame his great friend Carlos Martinez and wondered how he would go on. It was all so terribly sad.
Later, we found out that Taveras was more to blame than the initial reports of slick and curvy roads made it appear. For some, that changed the story a bit. There was still grief, but it was tinged with regret, with anger, and, for a segment of fans, of contempt. For others, not as much. The sadness was still there for them, no matter the situation. Benjamin Hochman has written a great piece today about the conflict there. Losing the life and then acknowledging it didn’t have to happen.
We’ve now spent a year without the talented Taveras. His 18 now adorns the back of his friend Martinez, who used this tragedy as a focal point, a way to mature and grow. We’ve talked about Martinez’s antics, his fun-loving style, but remember that this time last year we wondered when and if he’d be able to get past this, the loss of his best friend, especially after he’d made such an effort to get Taveras out of the situation that led to his death. Would we see a player distracted by grief? Would he be able to tap into his own talent?
Every time Martinez went out to the mound, he carried OT with him. Not just with the initials on his sleeve, like everyone else that put on a Cardinal jersey, but also by scratching those same letters into the back of the pitching mound. And he had him in his heart, dedicating his season to him. That pitcher that we worried about only put up possibly the best season of any Cardinal starter in a year where the entire staff worked on history.
Martinez didn’t get to pitch in the postseason as a shoulder strain knocked him out of his last start at the end of the regular season. Mike Matheny said it was doubly hard to go out to him because he could see those initials–OT–staring at him from the back of the mound and he knew just how much Martinez wanted to play in October to honor his friend.
It may be cliche and probably a significant overstatement to say time heals all wounds. There are gaps in your life that can never be filled just because there is distance between you and the loss of someone close to you. However, time does wear on the edges, softening them, making the grief not as intense, allowing you to think of the good times even as you sorrowfully acknowledge there will be no more of them.
We stand one year apart from the loss of Taveras. How do we feel? We, the fans, who had no knowledge of this player save what we saw on the field? We didn’t know him personally, we didn’t feel his loss as intensely as those who grew up with him, who played with him, who interacted with him. We felt it, surely, but time does seem to have helped heal our wound. We’ve moved on to focusing on Jason Heyward, the player traded to fill the void Taveras left. We’ve focused on the team as a whole, the exciting pennant race, the sad conclusion to the season.
Yet Taveras will always be a tender spot for us. We’ll continue to wonder what might have been. We’ll continue to remember where we were when we heard the news, hoping against hope that this was some Twitter hoax, then finding out so terribly that it wasn’t.
But we’ll also remember that home run in the raindrops and that blast in the NLCS against the Giants. The memories will always be bittersweet, but with time, hopefully the mix will favor the latter rather than the former.
For those that knew Taveras, for those reliving that awful day today, we pray for your peace.
For the rest of us, remember that smile, remember that swing, and remember that life is fragile. Treat it as such.