A career that seemed destined for greatness was cut short Oct. 26 when Major League Baseball’s second overall prospect Oscar Taveras, only 22 years old, lost control of his car and hit a tree, which resulted in deadly injuries to himself and his girlfriend who was also in the car.
Taveras signed a contract with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2008 when he was only 16 years old, and quickly gained the attention of the organization with his skills.
“I believe Taveras is a very special hitter," Bernie Pleskoff, a former scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners, wrote in a 2013 scouting report for MLB.com. "He's the type of middle-of-the-order threat that can change a baseball game with one swing of the bat. And he's only 20 years old.”
In his second major league at-bat May 31, 2014, Taveras hit a solo home run that proved to be the game-winning hit that evening. The St. Louis crowd would not stop cheering until the 22-year-old came out of the dugout and gave the crowd a curtain call. After the game, Cardinals' manager Mike Matheny told KMOV, a local St. Louis news station, that Taveras’ home run had been “a validation for the hype bestowed upon him.”
Exactly two weeks before his untimely death, Taveras was called upon as a pinch-hitter in game two of the National League Championship Series. His team was down 3-2 to the eventual World Series champions, the San Francisco Giants, when he lifted a solo home run to tie the game. At the post-game press conference, Taveras said, “I just try to keep focused and any time I receive any opportunity, I just try to do my best.”
The interview ended with Taveras talking about his plans to improve his skills during the off-season. The Cardinals were eliminated from the playoffs four days later, and Taveras returned to his home in the Dominican Republic.
Taveras was driving his Chevrolet Camaro in the town of Puerto Plaza, Dominican Republic, when he veered off the road and struck a tree, police said. His cause of death was determined to be multiple injuries including brain and torso trauma, according to a report released by Brigade General Fransisco Romero Lopez of the Dominican Republic’s Northern Regional National Police.
Taveras’ girlfriend, Ydelia Yamelis Arvelos was also killed in the accident, police said. The two were transported to Sosua Cabarete Medical Center and died while receiving care, police said.
“First of all, it felt like a bad dream that could not be real, and when reality kicked in, my words didn't even seem to make sense,” Matheny said in an official statement released to the public the morning after Taveras’ death.
“We loved Oscar, and he loved us. That is what a team does, that is what a family does. You will be missed, Oscar."
Contact staff writer Gabriel Obergon at firstname.lastname@example.org