Fernando Tatis Jr.: “I hope I can give this city several championships”

Like all transcendent performers, Fernando Tatis Jr. has standards. When he’s on stage, he only knows one way to act. So when Tatis, the dazzling San Diego Padres shortstop, considered competing in the All-Star Home Run Derby in Denver on July 12, he knew he had to refuse. he can’t risk worsening the shoulder he dislocated in April.

“I feel like if I go there I’m not going to hold back,” Tatis said on Friday. “If I do, I want to put on a real show.”

Tatis was speaking by phone from the Petco Park clubhouse before the Padres played against the Arizona Diamondbacks. He then went out and staged a personal home run derby, winning three in his first three at-bat in an 11-5 win, the eighth straight win for San Diego. The homers brought his NL leader tally to 25, to go with 54 RBIs, .294 average and 15 stolen goals. (And a major league top of 16 errors.)

The numbers, however, are only beginning to describe Tatis’ appeal. Forty years after Fernando Valenzuela captivated Los Angeles, a new Fernandomania takes hold of Southern California. From her blonde dreadlocks and bat flips to the occasional shimmy on a home run trot, Tatis, 22, commands attention like no other player in the game.

These are exhilarating times for the Padres, who did not compete in the World Series during Tatis’ lifetime and are one of six franchises without a championship. Tatis, whose $ 340 million contract runs until 2034, will have a good chance of delivering one. But with a well-rounded roster that includes Manny Machado, Yu Darvish, and Eric Hosmer, he would like to start now.

This interview has been slightly edited and condensed for clarity.

Your father played 11 seasons in majors, most before you were born or when you were too young to remember. But you were 9 when he joined the Mets in 2008 for his last three seasons. What emerges from these years?

I remember him from the Orioles (in 2006), but it’s with the Mets that I have the most memories. It was around this time that I fell in love with the game. I was one of those kids, when they talked about baseball, I never talked. When these big boys were talking, I was still listening and learning and I felt like I enjoyed it.

Who were some of your dad’s favorite teammates?

It was pretty fun watching Jose Reyes and Angel Pagan too.

Reyes, of course, is from the Dominican Republic, like you. What is it about your hometown of San Pedro de Macoris that makes it the No. 1 major league player producer per capita in the world?

We live baseball. That’s the thing: we live this game. We are passionate about it. I feel like it’s right in our blood and it’s been passed down from generation to generation. We love this game.

You helped Estrellas Orientales win a Dominican Winter League championship in 2018-19, when your father was the manager. It was their first title since 1968. How would you describe this experience?

Winning this championship for my hometown, in front of my family and everyone I knew growing up, was probably the best experience I’m going to have in my life. It’s something that I grew up with, and seeing it happen with my dad as a manager and me as a shortstop – it’s like a movie, something that’s hard to believe. They even canceled school for a week!

In San Diego, do you see the same kind of desire for something that they never had there?

Absolutely. It’s a bigger scene, and it’s one of my dreams. I hope to be able to give this city several championships.

The Padres are the only team in town and the atmosphere at the stadium seems incredible. How would you describe it?

The atmosphere around San Diego is simply amazing. You know what the team has been building over the past four or five years, and they finally come together. The fans see it, the city sees it and I feel like everyone is seeing it now too. Everyone falls in love here.

The Padres lead the majors a lot in stolen bases, and we don’t see a lot of teams stealing bases anymore. How does base stealing help your team, and why aren’t more teams doing it?

We’re a very athletic team, and I feel like people have closed number based flight bases or blah, blah, blah – I don’t know. But here we are still playing old fashioned baseball with a really good mix of new baseball. We find a way to do it, and the athletes we have on this team are working hard.

As we speak, you are leading the National League in terms of homers and stolen goals. (Ronald Acuna Jr. and Trea Turner passed Tatis for the stolen baseline header on Friday night.) For the past 111 years, only one player – Chuck Klein in 1932 – has led his league in circuits and steals during the same season. Do you think you can do it?

It’s going to be very difficult, but I hope we can stay on the same pace, stay healthy and certainly we will work for it.

Have you thought about a season of 40 circuits and 40 flights? No one has joined the 40/40 club since Alfonso Soriano in 2006.

It’s definitely something I’ve been thinking about, and definitely something I’m working for. Like you said, the last one was Soriano, so it would mean a lot to me to be next.

He’s probably a guy you grew up with, I guess.

Exactly.

What are you working on specifically to improve your game?

My defense definitely needs to get cleaner, and my strikes need to get a bit more consistent as well. But I feel like it’s part of this game. I’m 22, I’m still learning a lot about this game. Hopefully we can keep playing the good way and keep learning.

My son plays MLB: The Show video game all the time, so I constantly hear your intro: “I’m sorry if things got too exciting for you, and this isn’t the game you remember.” But here’s the thing: we’ll never go back. “ What do you mean by that, because it’s a bold statement?

(laughs) Let the children play. Everything revolves around this sentence. If you really have that inner child, that dream of playing baseball, and now you’re on the big stage, do what you dreamed of, do what you worked for. Just put all your energy there and enjoy the moment. Enjoy when you do good, enjoy the struggles, because the next thing you know, 10 years is going to pass – if you have the chance to play this game for 10 years – and then you are going to come out, and you are going to miss these stories. .

Do you think this attitude can help attract more young fans to the game?

I have the impression that it is possible. People just go after that natural hype, and when they see players playing their game to the fullest, giving it their all, that’s all they want to see. They want to have a good show. It’s all about it.

To that end, tell me about the Loot Chain – the oversized gold necklace with a spinning “SD” medallion that Padres players wear after a home run.

(laughs) That was Manny’s idea – and he blew it up. It’s definitely something that brought more swag to the team. It is solid gold. It’s quite heavy, believe me.

You accessorize the brown and yellow uniform of the Padres with the color pink: always a pink bracelet, sometimes a pink sleeve. Why pink?

I have always played with pink since I was in the minor leagues. It’s something I do as a tribute to my mother. There were only men in the house, so I put that on my bracelet so she would know that I was still thinking of her. I think that’s one of the coolest things I can put on there.

OK, now the black eye: I can’t figure this out. Sometimes it’s a cross, sometimes we stylize it a bit. You got something going on there, right?

Sometimes I go with a cross, sometimes I put a little pattern on it, sometimes I just try to have fun with it. It depends on how I feel before the game.

Your brother, Elijah, is a minor leaguer with the White Sox, the team that traded you to the Padres for James Shields when you were 17. How much do you communicate with him?

He’s in extended spring training now, he’s going to the rookie ball. We talk every day and it is catching on. Now he’s going through minor league wrestling, and I just wish him luck.

I guess the White Sox won’t trade it.

(laughs) Yeah. I will probably think a little more this time.

Add a Comment