If you haven’t read Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree lately I would suggest doing so.
When word broke two Sunday’s ago that Oscar Taveras and his girlfriend died tragically in a car wreck, the sports world was once again rocked with sadness.
Actually, anyone with a sense of dignity was rocked with sadness.
Unfortunately, a life lost at the young age of 22 is all too common. Most, if not all of us have seen a life end too soon — be it completely unforeseen or a deadly illness waiting to strike. However, all of us have lost someone, and death at any stage is truly sad.
Unlike the boy in The Giving Tree, Oscar Taveras never grew old. He will never have the opportunity to live up to the “Albert Pujols-like” comparisons. We will never truly know what baseball legacy Taveras would have left the world.
But that legacy is completely beyond the point. The world lost a baseball player with exceptional talent, but we also lost the life of a young man with more qualities to life than swinging a baseball bat.
When I saw pictures of Taveras’ funeral procession, it offered a reminder of how one person can make a difference in this crazy world. He was a lot more than a “top prospect” to the people of the Dominican Republic: he offered an example of hope, prosperity, and love.
A high school colleague, Eric Senseman, recently wrote on his blog, The Struggle Against Time and Distance, about a friend, Wade Abadessa, who passed away from Ewing’s Sarcoma. I’m not sure one could more perfectly express the sadness brought by any death, be it young or old.
“If death is generally a terrible occurrence, then an untimely death is even more so,” he writes.
“We want to blame someone or something for the tragedy, yet we have no one thing to blame. Can we blame the sky, or the earth, or the cancer cells that slowly took the life from the person we hold dear? Perhaps. But the sky nor the earth, nor the cancer cells can hear our scorn or change the world for us. We are left mad with the world and there is nothing—absolutely nothing—we can do to change it. We are impotent.”
Eric runs in competitions throughout the country, hence the name of the blog. But the name, to me, offers a deeper thought to life: we are constantly struggling to manage ourselves against the clock. For some of us, the clock runs out sooner than expected.
The Giving Tree is a perfect example of the “struggle against time and distance”. The young boy, who once loved to swing from the tree’s branches, soon recognized he needed more than “happiness” to sustain life. So he sells the tree’s apples for money, builds a house with its branches, and takes basically everything the tree has to offer. But ultimately, the boy grows old, and true happiness, acceptance, and the enduring love both showed from the beginning are what both seek. It’s the most basic understanding of how history repeats itself.
In my opinion, Oscar represents the Tree’s loyalty. We asked a lot from him, and he offered everything he could until his time card finally punched one last time.
Oscar had talents far beyond baseball, and for anyone fretting how his death may change the scope of a baseball organization, I ask you to take a step back and recognize what Oscar’s life meant to people away from the diamond.
Sports, in general, offer an interesting perspective on life. But unlike life, sports judge winners and losers based on a final score; Oscar’s life ended with no score needed — he won.
As I mentioned at the time, something was “Rapture-esque” about his first career homerun. In his second MLB at-bat, Taveras slugged a hanging breaking ball into the right-field bullpen. It came against the would-be World Champion San Francisco Giants as the rain began to pour at a sold-out Busch Stadium. A delay ensued. Perhaps it was a moment for reflection.
Oscar was awarded with a standing ovation from 44,426 in attendance. Everyone deserves a standing ovation in life, no matter one’s struggle against time versus distance.
Peace and love.
Thanks for reading.