Wednesday, May 5, 2010
#774) FERNANDO TATIS
Fernando Tatis joined the New York Mets as a free agent on March 23, 2007. He spent that first year in the organization entirely with Triple-A New Orleans. The Dominican Republic native had been home healing injuries and out of baseball for the two prior years. In fact during 2005 and 2006 he had avoided baseball. "I didn't even watch a game," Tatis said. "I had no plans to play again." His two young sons encouraged his return when the time was right. "They wanted to see me play," Fernando explained. "In my heart, I know I am a player. I promised to try and go back. I put the feeling in my heart one more time." A secondary explanation surfaced as well. "In my town," Tatis said, "We needed to buy land to build a church. And I said to my family, the only way that we can buy this land is if I come back to baseball and make the money to buy the land to build the church." It worked. "You put something in your mind and when you see the reality, and when you see the church is so beautiful, so big," the slugger said. "It's amazing."
Tatis made his New York Mets debut on May 13, 2008 when starting outfielder, Moises Alou was ailing and Angel Pagan became injured. Once brought to the roster Fernando immediately began to deliver key hits. Late inning home runs to win ball games became his specialty. A big game of his charmed season came on August 5th in New York. Facing the San Diego Padres a resurgent Tatis would hit two home runs and drive in four runs during the Mets' 6-5 victory. His second blast was followed by a curtain call from the fans. "All of Shea Stadium cheering my name — it's unbelievable," Fernando said at the time. "It's amazing for me."
A versatile player who was able to play both outfield and infield positions, but somehow his appearance as an everyday player was questioned by some. "He's a good ballplayer. He's always been a tough out. He's not a surprise to the guys that know him." responded teammate, Billy Wagner.
The dream season would come to a close on September 16th. While attempting to make a diving catch in the outfield, Fernando was injured. Tatis landed on his shoulder and stayed on the ground as the ball rolled past him for a double. It was diagnosed as a separated shoulder that ended his season. "He's done," manager Jerry Manuel would announce. "That's very discouraging, to lose a big piece of where we are and what we've accomplished so far."
In October, Fernando was named the 2008 National League Comeback Player of the Year. His fellow players in Major League Baseball had voted him the winner of the annual award.
"To me, I take it this way: it's a blessing for me to be here," Tatis had commented earlier in the season. "God has blessed me every day just to be here in the big leagues, to be alive. That's the way I take it right now. And it's amazing."
Fernando Tatis signed his card in the set for me when the New York Mets visited the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ballpark on May 4, 2010.