Cards reveal plans to honor Taveras in 2015
Club plays tribute video for late outfielder at Winter Warm-Up
ST. LOUIS -- With this being the 18th day of the new year, the Cardinals dedicated time during the second day of their three-day Winter Warm-Up event to remember outfielder Oscar Taveras and announce how the organization plans to honor him this season.
Shortly before taking the stage to talk about Taveras and introduce a tribute video, Cardinals principal owner Bill DeWitt Jr. disclosed that a black "OT" patch will be added to the sleeve of the team's 2015 jerseys. An "OT" decal, similar to the ones hung in the bullpen to honor Darryl Kile and Josh Hancock, will be displayed somewhere near the Busch Stadium field.
The patch will omit Taveras' No. 18 because pitcher Carlos Martinez has asked to wear that number as a way to honor his late friend. That No. 18 is featured on the remembrance pins Cardinals players, staff and employees have been wearing throughout the Winter Warm-Up weekend.
The club, in conjunction with Cardinals Care, has also made a financial commitment to renovate a baseball field in Taveras' hometown of Sosua, Dominican Republic, after which the field will be named Oscar Taveras Field. Taveras, who died in an automobile accident on Oct. 26, was the first player from that town to reach the Majors.
"[It will] give the young kids down there a chance to dream like Oscar did of someday playing in the big leagues and getting their start on that field," DeWitt said. "There was so much outreach and a tremendous following for Oscar down there, I think this will be a nice symbol of what he meant to that area, and I think it's the appropriate place to do it."
At a team level, this weekend offered the first time for players to gather en masse since the tragedy. Manager Mike Matheny has said that he intends to use Spring Training as an opportunity to discuss the loss as a group, while also teaching from choices Taveras made.
A few weeks after the accident, which also took the life of Taveras' 18-year-old girlfriend, an official from the attorney general's office in the Dominican Republic revealed that Taveras had a blood-alcohol content of .287 when his car crashed into a tree. It marked the second time in recent franchise history that a Cardinals player had died while driving intoxicated.
After Hancock was killed in a 2007 accident, the Cardinals removed all alcohol from their home clubhouse and refrained from serving it on flights back home after a road trip. The Cardinals have also dedicated time each spring to talk about decision-making responsibilities, conversations that will be heightened this year in the wake of a personal loss.
"We'll make a special effort to do even more in the future," DeWitt said. "Some of the ... young kids come in, a lot of them, in particular the younger kids, maybe been away from home for the first time, just explain to them the responsibility program. We do that, but we'll emphasize it even more."