The year was 2001. I was 11 years old; I was just starting to really become a diehard Cardinals fan. That season I fell in love with a baseball player by the name of Albert Pujols. That year Albert was unanimously named the NL Rookie of the Year after setting an NL rookie record with 130 RBIs (fifth in the league) and becoming the fourth MLB rookie to hit .300 with 30 home runs, 100 runs, and 100 RBIs.
I along with the rest of Cardinal Nation watched Pujols dominate the MLB for the next 11 seasons. We got to watch Albert win 3 MVP awards in 2005, 2008 and 2009 and we even got to celebrate 2 World Series wins in 2006 and 2011. Albert was the first Cardinal superstar that I got to watch from the time he was a rookie until he was a grown man.
At the end of the 2011 season and one of the greatest post season runs ever for the St. Louis Cardinals, Albert Pujols left St. Louis for California. At the time I thought I was devastated. Albert had been my hero and favorite player in the history of baseball.Little did I know, my next Cardinal love lay just a few seasons away. Prior to the 2012 season, Baseball America named a young stud with the name of Oscar Taveras the Cardinals’ third-best prospect. This was the first I had heard of Oscar and I was intrigued. I began to watch video and instantly fell in love with his swing. There was just something to that swing that looked oh so beautiful to the eyes.
Oscar spent his time in the minor leagues and dominated for the majority of it and I kept an eye on him the whole time. After suffering an injury in 2013 and having surgery, the Cardinals wanted to have Oscar be in the MLB for 2014 but they had a difficult time getting him to fully trust the ankle in performance and with the hamstring injury that followed, the Cardinals optioned him to the minor league camp on March 14, 2014. I was saddened because I wanted my new favorite Cardinal to be in the Majors but I understood why he could not…Yet!
Then Saturday, May 31, 2014 came along. Oscar day as I and many from Cardinal Nation called it. It was finally time to see Oscar Taveras play in the majors! I was so excited to see what he could do. Of course Oscar delivered as only Oscar could. Taveras launched his first hit and first career home run in his second career at bat with one out in the bottom of the fifth inning against San Francisco Giants’ starter Yusmeiro Petit. He became the youngest to hit a home run in his major league debut for the Cardinals since Eddie Morgan in 1936. It also started to rain during his at bat which made the moment even that more awesome! The home run proved to the game-winning run. For myself, this moment made me realize exactly how special this man was. His major league debut was talked about for years and he delivered perfectly!
When Matt Adams came off the DL on June 19th, Oscar was sent back to AAA after having struggled a bit at the plate but he showed that he could hit major league pitching. His contact rate of 92.3% on pitches outside of the strike zone surpassed the MLB average of 65.7% and his miss rate of 2.5% on swinging strikes was significantly lower than the MLB average of 9.1%. Most fans could see this kid could swing the bat and just needed more time to adjust to MLB pitching. Exactly one month after his first call up, Oscar was recalled from AAA and he spent the rest of the 2014 season with the Cardinals. All season long I cheered on Oscar and looking forward to watch him become an all-star in the future.
Oscar made the 2014 postseason roster and had 4 hits in 7 at bats. One of those hits was another magical Oscar moment. With the Cardinals trailing in the 7th inning, Oscar stepped to the plate and launched a game tying homerun, a game the Cardinals went on to win. Sadly this would be the last hit of Oscar’s life. Oscar came in like a hero and went out like a hero.
I mention the Pujols departure because I thought the departure of Albert was the worst feeling I could have as a Cardinals fan. I was wrong, I was 100% wrong. The death of Oscar (my new favorite Cardinals player) hurts in a way that is not even comparable. It hurts worse than any Cardinals loss I have ever had to watch. The death of Oscar hurts because Oscar was larger than life. His swing and his smile both were big and beautiful. We as fans will never know how good of a player Oscar could have been but more importantly Cardinal Nation lost a son. My heart goes out to Oscar’s family and the family of his girlfriend, Edilia Arvelo. I recently communicated with Edilia on twitter and she was as sweet as her boyfriend’s swing. Earth lost two amazing human beings yesterday. Death is impossible to understand and Cardinal Nation will never be able to get over this death and I hope we never do. Please remember Oscar forever. Remember Oscar for his smile and that sweet, sweet swing!