But Tatum still politely answered my question. He then took his response to another level of confidence, which is never a bad thing, when I asked about his ultimate goal as a professional baseball player.
“I want to be a part of the team in Chicago this season because I see what we have and what we need, and I feel like I can help us win ballgames,” the left-handed hitter said. “My ultimate goal in all is to become a Major League baseball player. I know I have the ability to play at the Major League level.
“It’s just about making it and staying up there. Doing whatever I can to help the team win at the big-league level.”
Tatum, 23, was the 16th-round pick of the White Sox in the 2021 Draft from North Carolina State and has an impressive .294/.457/.484 slash line over 36 games this season. He ranks third in the South Atlantic League with 20 stolen bases to go with three home runs, 11 doubles, two triples, 37 runs scored and 26 RBIs.
The road to success has not always been easy, as Tatum missed the ’20 season with numerous other Minor Leaguers due to the COVID-19 pandemic and then was suspended for 50 games in ’22 after testing positive for the banned stimulant amphetamine. The White Sox stood behind Tatum, and Tatum continued to work away from the team to make the most out of a tough process.
As for that goal of Winston-Salem to the Majors in ’23, the speedy outfielder understands it might not work with the White Sox plans. But it’s what he believes.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” Tatum said. “Across the board I think I’m one of the best players in our organization in that I can help our team win in any facet, whether it’s defense, running, hitting. I have a chance to really help us win games.
“I’m looked at as a speed guy. So, when you see my profile, my persona, you’ll be like, ‘We have to defend the bunt, get rid of the ball quick. He’s going to be fast.’
"And then when I get into the box, I bring speed and I have the ability to take you deep to any field. Being able to bring that type of dynamic to the game, I consider myself a game changer.
“They might think I need more at-bats and more time to develop. But like you said, the numbers ... "
There was a pause before Tatum added, “This is why I don’t like talking about myself.
“It’s not about the attention or anything,” Tatum added. “Everybody loves it, but personally I don’t like talking about myself because I feel like it’s selfish. It’s not an individualized sport but it’s the most individualized team sport there is so I try to keep the focus a part of the team.”
His ability to run and steal bases, especially with the new rules implemented at the Major League level, presents a key prospect intangible.
“Me and [assistant director player development] Kenny Williams Jr. had a conversation about it last year before the suspension,” Tatum said. “We talked about how, ‘You are in scoring position from first base. You are really fast. You don’t need to worry about stealing as many bases.’
“I was telling him I understand what you are saying but it takes so much pressure off guys if you have your catalyst or your sparkplug in the lineup who can also go deep, but when he gets on first base, he can turn it into a double. Somebody hits a bloop single, that’s a run, rather than having to drive a ball into a gap or hit a ball down the line for me to score.”