Fernando Tatis Jr. made it clear on Monday who motivates him to get better: the young baseball fan who is looking for a hero
A young sports fan in San Diego has experienced nothing but heartbreak in their short life. Already they’ve had to endure the Chargers packing up for the bigger spotlight of Hollywood, leaving the Padres, a franchise that has never won anything, alone in the eighth-most populous city in the United States.
But there is suddenly hope, and it’s embodied in 22-year-old Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. Tatis, who officially signed his 14-year, $340 million deal on Monday that will keep him in San Diego until the age of 35, now has the expectations of an entire fanbase that will now grow up watching him perform for their city.
A 10-year-old in San Diego right now will be finished college by the time Tatis’ contract with the Padres ends. Tatis knows that the monumental numbers of his new contract also carry with it an important task: inspiring that young boy or girl to stay a baseball fan.
Fernando Tatis is the face of baseball and inspiring the next generation
“That’s one of the big key factors over here. Being able to be one of those athletes that kids look up to,” Tatis said at his press conference with Padres General Manager A.J. Preller. “Those are one of the main things that keep me pushing every day.”
Tatis isn’t far removed from being a kid himself, playing ball in the backyard and dreaming of one day making it to the Major Leagues. Still just 22 and with only 143 games of big-league experience, he’s already vaulted himself into the upper echelon of the baseball world. He’s not only one of the best players but also one of the most popular, his figure gracing the cover of video games and sports cards.
Tatis has begun his career hitting .301 with a .956 OPS over his first two seasons. Just five other players—Mel Ott, Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams, Hal Trosky, and Albert Pujols—have matched those numbers through their age 21 season. All of them besides Trosky are either in the Hall of Fame already or, in Pujols’ case, destined to be a first-ballot selection.
Thanks in large part to Tatis, who was a leading contender for National League Most Valuable Player as late as September, the Padres reached the postseason in 2020 for the first time in 14 years only to be swept by the Dodgers in the NLDS. Preller, determined to finally overtake Los Angeles, added Blake Snell, Yu Darvish, and Joe Musgrove this offseason. The Padres and Dodgers will play each other 19 times this season. Their burgeoning rivalry is just beginning, and for Tatis, the Padres’ efforts to no longer be second-best in California was a motivating factor to commit to the franchise long-term.
“They have made it clear that the culture that we’re trying to build over here is a winning culture. We’re going for it. Everybody is feeling it,” he said.
If Tatis does lead the Padres past the Dodgers, that young sports fan who has never seen a championship come to their city will finally have something to celebrate. More importantly, they’ll become a baseball fan for life, all because a fresh-faced budding superstar who plays the game with passion and flair decided to stand by the city.
“Let’s do it for the next generation because they’re going to keep this game alive,” Tatis said. He’s right, and he’s just beginning to inspire tomorrow’s baseball fan.