* San Francisco Giants scout Raimondo Callari was in the seats when he got the news — Oscar Taveras, a youngster he’d known since playing on the ball fields in Outremont and his girlfriend had been killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. ….
By Bob Elliott
SAN FRANCISCO _ Raimondo Callari was in section 321, second row, seats 13-14 with his daughter Olivia at AT&T Park on Sunday night.
Callari scouts Canada for the San Francisco Giants.
The Montrealer wears a 2010 World Series Giants ring on his left hand and a 2012 World Series ring on his right.
On a beautiful evening Callari he and his 13-year-old daughter, settled into their seats to watch Madison Bumgarner fool Kansas City Royals hitters in one of the most picturesque parks this side of PNC Park.
And then in the second inning the cell phone in his back pocket buzzed for the first time.
The text was from Montreal Giants sandlot coach Frank Martinez.
And it was awful, awful news.
Oscar Taveras had been killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic.
Callari said he went numb.
Taveras, who turned 22 on Aug 22, and his girlfriend Edilia Arvelo were in the fatal crash.
In between texts and phone calls from home and fellow Giants scouts who knew of Taveras Montreal background, Callari watched
Bumgarner shut out the Royals for 5-0 to move to within a game of their third World Series win in five years.
“It was a bittersweet, sombre victory,” said the scout. “This stinks. It is awful.
“I have kids. I can’t imagine if this was one of my kids. This boy was just a kid at heart. The key word being kid.”
* * *
Very sad news about #OscarTaveras today #RIPOscarTaveras my condolences go out to his family and his loved ones
* * *
Giants back-up outfielder Juan Perez heard the news when he was working out in a room behind the Giants third base dugout.
Actually he overheard from someone from the commissioner’s office say “Oscar Taveras had been killed in a car accident.”
“Are you sure,” Perez asked.
Perez and Raul Burgos, Taveras’ brother were good friends and teammates.
How could Perez and Taveras not be friends when he finally became a teammate in 2011 in winter ball with the Águilas Cibaeñas? “Every day Raul would tell me ‘my little brother, he’s going to be special,” said Perez.
And 10 days earlier in the National League Championship Series, Taveras bounced out to end the top of the ninth with the bases loaded before Travis Ishikawa hit a walk-off three-run homer to send the Giants to the World Series.
Not believing or wanting to believe Perez raced to the stairs to the clubhouse to look at his phone. There was one message after another, likely 20, from friends that Taveras and his girlfriend had been killed.
Perez broke down.
“When I found him he was crying,” said Giants hitting coach Hensley Mulens. “I asked him what was wrong. I didn’t know.”
Reliever Santiago Casilla told Perez not to look at the twitter picture of the red car.
* * *
I am just 10 years old and we never met but I am sad and will miss watching you and will wear #18 for you forever. RIP.
* * *
Francisco Munoz, Taveras’ father, and Callari played on the same fastpitch team in Outremont about 10 years ago.
Running around the outfield were Ismael Pena and Taveras. Born in Montreal, Pena signed with Arizona last year receiving a $750,000 US signing bonus.
“Back then Oscar was clumsy, rolly polly, he was 12, or 13, hanging around on his father’s coat tails the way kids do at a park,” Callari said. “Oscar was always smiling, saying to me ‘hey will you throw with me please.’
“We had fun. It was like baseball in the Dominican. Everyone was happy. Playing for fun. Loud music playing.”
Then, Taveras signed up for baseball and Callari saw him again on the Montreal sandlots.
“His talent played above his age group,” said Callari, who said Taveras made the Montreal Orioles midget triple-A league as an under-ager at 15.
“People don’t know what a large Latin community we have in Montreal,” said Callari, a good friend of former Montreal Expos and Giants manager, Felipe Alou. “Didn’t matter where a kid was from: the Dominican, Nicaragua, Venezuela: Oscar Taveras was a good role model to all those kids.
“Everyone in Montreal who ever met the kid is devasted,”
Callari heard from most Sunday night, plus Giants veteran scouts Paul Turco and John Castlebury.
Taveras returned to the Dominican, needing a Canadian passport to gain entry. In Canada he had to wait for grade 12 and the draft, while in the Dominican he could sign after his 16th birthday.
Callari is looking for his third World Series ring which would tie the late Bobby Prentice, who won one with the Detroit Tigers and two rings with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Earlier — before he got the news about Taveras — Callari was asked what he would do with a third ring: the 2010 Series ring on his left, the 2012 on his right.
“I’m just holding them for the kids, Olivia and Matteo (11),” said Callari. “If we can win I’m not sure what happens … whether Olivia goes from getting No. 1 to No. 2 or Matteo changes to No. 2. Out of the two kids and I … I’m No. 4.”
* * *
Last 30 minutes I’ve been sick to my stomach. Keep thinking about Oscar’s big smile in the dugout whenever we made a big play/got a big hit
* * *
Far away from Facebook, Twitter, the Dominican and Montreal there was a ball game going on … the Giants were leading 1-0 and didn’t want to go to Kansas City for Game 6 needing to win two.
Perez tried to wrap his mind upon the game and what was happening. Now they were leading 2-0 in the sixth when Ishikawa singled and Perez pinch ran. Manager Bruce Bochy was unaware of the death of Taveras’ death or Perez’s friendship or how the outfielder had handled the heart-breaking news.
Once Perez went into play, he had put his thoughts of Taveras behind him for the moment.
Perez was in left in the seventh and made a fine grab on the track of a Sal Perez drive. Does Ishikawa, normally a first baseman, catch the ball? Likely not.
Now, in the bottom of the eighth on came Wade Davis after Pedro Sandoval and Hunter Pence each singled. Davis struck out Brandon Belt and Perez was up: his 210 at-bat of the season, his 21st of the post-season and the first since he lost his dear friend.
Perez hit .170 this year. Righties hit .112 against Davis. Perez had 11 RBIs in 206 major league plate appearances.
The back-up player with the broken heart fell behind 0-2 and the at-bat looked as if was going to unfold as it should and on the seventh pitch of the at-bat doubled off the top of the centre-field fence.
Sandoval and Pence scored and when the throw to the plate went to the screen, the Giants unlikely run producer slid into third.
“It’s tough, he’s a really close friend,” Perez said. “I know his family. I know his mother, his brother and I`ve met his father, who still lives in Montreal about four times. It’s a huge loss, for his family for his teammates and the people who care.
Perez dusted himself off, stood and pointed to this skies.
As if saying: this one was for you Oscar.
Never mind the guys who hit homers when the score is 9-1 and do gyrations crossing the plate, this was raw emotion.
* * *
RIP. You will be missed!
(Posted under a picture of Taveras tipping his cap with a Field of Dream type corn field in the background.)
* * *
The Cardinals thought that Taveras was the heir apparent to icon Albert Pujols.
His nickname was The Phenomenon.
He homered against Yusmeiro Petit in his major league debut on May 31.
He had homered against the Giants off reliever Jean Machi in Game 2 of the NLCS.
Since he was eligible to play for Canada in the World Baseball Classic and had the proper papers he earned the 2012 Randall Echlin award as the best Canadian in the minors when the Canadian Baseball Network handed out its season-end awards.
“He was a super star in the making, the sky was the limit.” Callari said. “St. Louis traded Allen Craig to make room for him. They played Randal Grichuk against us, but I think if Oscar was in shape — I mean game ready shape — he could have been another Carlos Beltran.
People say Sandoval is not in shape for us? But can he play? He plays every day. He’s in game shape.”
Perez the bit player stood the for longest post-game sessions we’ve seen since Dave Stewart pitched eight innings to win Game 1 of the 1990 ALCS at Fenway Park, the outfield fielded all the questions.
His locker was surrounded by TV cameras, mikes, recorders and notebooks.
Questions came in English and in Spanish.
He was even asked if he had thought if the Giants had not beaten the Cardinals would his friend still be alive? He didn’t really answer than that one.
A couple of times he eyes turned red.
“He was a humble guy,” Perez said for about the sixth time when asked about Oscar. “He was going to be an all-star. He was rocketing past a lot of prospects on his way up the rankings through the minors.
Baseball America ranked Taveras the No. 3 prospect heading into both the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
“He loved to play, his family loved baseball. His father played pro ball. His brother played pro ball,” Perez said. “He came up with a lot of expectations. Now he’s going to be missed by a lot of people.”
Asked if he knew the area of road where Taveras’ 2014 Chevrolet Camaro crashed between the beaches of Sosua and Cabarete in Puerto Plata, north of the capital of Santo Domingo, Perez said “yes, It’s near his home. The roads can be slippery.”
* * *
Wearing Cardinals’ gear tomorrow for Oscar Taveras. All other Cardinals’ fans should do the same. #stlcards #RIPOscarTaveras
Brent Pearson @b_pearson
* * *
“Every time I ran into his father it was a happy time,” said Callari, who said the last time he saw Taveras’ father he invited the outfielder to work out at Callari’s recenlty opened indoor facility — the Montreal Baseball Academy located off Decarie Blvd.
“His father and I would talk for a few minutes and I’d ask about Oscar. And he’d say ‘You knoww, my Oscar, he liked you.”
* * *
I have nothing but to say that you were such a great human being. God may lead your steps and we will see each other someday. I am so hurt for this man and i wish your family my deepest condolences!
* * *
Outside AT&T Park ushers and usherettes, policemen and security guards hugged each other after the final game of the season.
“It’s been a good season.”
“Well, they didn’t wrap it up here … that’s too bad … I was hoping for that.”
“We’ll see you next year on opening day.”
“As long as I’m alive I plan on being here,” said an elderly usher.
After the game, Perez went to his Twitter account to pay tribute to his departed pal:
“That Double was 4 U Oscar! I’ll remember the Good Times. God Bless U Bro. I’ll miss U man. My condolences!”