As the Royals and Giants squared off in World Series Game 5 Sunday night, tweets began to surface about the death of St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras. They were couched in the distancing language of "according to reports" and "rumors" which allowed one to hold out hope that they were false—one of those false Twitter viral events that gets spread the world round before the truth comes out. Then Dionisio Soldevila, who works for the AP and ESPN Deportes, confirmed the reports and proved the rumors true: Taveras and his girlfriend died in a car accident in the Dominican Republic.
Confirmed: Cardinals' prospect Oscar Taveras was killed in a car accident along with hits girlfriend in Puerto Plata.— Dionisio Soldevila (@dSoldevila) October 27, 2014
Whether it's sprinting around the bases and sliding into a bag or cracking a homer, the physical feats athletes perform on the field make them in so many ways the embodiment of life. When last we saw Taveras he was sprinting after batted balls in the San Francisco outfield. The notion that the young man who was so full of vigor during and after his NLCS homer is no longer alive just doesn't compute. People like that don't die; they are pictures of good health. How can this be?
I just stared at the screen, re-reading the tweet twenty, thirty, one hundred times. It had to be wrong. Taveras just turned 22 years old on August 22—he is just a kid! But none of the characters in Soldevila's tweet changed. The words remained, their grim message unchanged. Forever irreversible.
The juxtaposition of the World Series on the television and the news on my computer screen was a particularly cruel twist of fate. Tweets about Taveras during the World Series were supposed to be about his uncanny contact skill or outfield misadventures—not his death. And had the Cardinals bested the Giants in the NLCS that is just what the tweets would have been about because, on October 26, Taveras wouldn't have been in a car with his girlfriend, Edilia Arvelo, in the Dominican. He would've been in St. Louis readying for a World Series game or perhaps preparing for a parade after a sweep. Instead, this tragedy.
Like too many young people born into this world, Taveras has had his life cut short, leaving promise unfulfilled. For fans like you and me, who only knew Taveras as a ballplayer, we'll lament his passing and for years bring him up in what-might-have-been baseball conversations. But for those who knew him as a friend or family member, they'll mourn the loss of a loved one. And that's what makes the news of the 22-year-old's death truly tragic. Taveras was more than just a ballplayer. His death isn't just the loss of a baseball career; it's the loss of a young man who had his whole life in front of him.