May 31, 2014 was a great day to be a St. Louis Cardinals fan. Oscar Taveras was set to make his Major League debut after spending six seasons in the minors. Most baseball rankings, if not all, had Taveras as one of the top-5 prospects in baseball every year since 2012.
The Cardinals signed Taveras in 2008 at 16 years old as an international amateur free agent from the Dominican Republic. Over six seasons in the minor leagues he batted .321 with a .519 slugging percentage. In 2012 he won the Texas League batting title and was the Texas League Player of the Year as well as the Cardinals organization’s Player of the Year.
In his major league debut three years ago today, Taveras hit the go-ahead home run in the 5th inning off of Yusmeiro Petit in a scoreless game. Even though he struggled at the plate over the course of 80 games hitting only .239, he would hit a game tying home run in game 2 of the NLCS against the San Francisco Giants. The Cardinals would go on to win that game, the only one of the series.
Exactly two weeks after he hit that game tying home run in the NLCS, Taveras would be killed along with his girlfriend in a car accident in the Domincan Republic.
Two days after his death was Game 6 of the World Series, Yordano Ventura paid tribute to the late Taveras and wrote “O.T. #18” on his hat along with other tributes on his cleats and glove. Ventura’s hat would later be turned in for display at the National Baseball Hall of Fame Museum.
That same night the Cardinals left the right field lights on at the stadium in honor of Taveras. He played right field mainly in his 80 career games.
Current Cardinals pitcher, and friend, Carlos Martinez requested to change his number to 18 the following season in honor of Taveras, and still wears that number today.
Taveras left behind a one-year-old son, Oscar Yadier Taveras.