Bock’s Score: Baseball Bloodlines

Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire

Major League Baseball needs to know there is another Tatis in the minor league pipeline and if he’s anything like his father or brother, he could be headed for big things.

Elijah Tatis is playing Rookie League ball, baseball’s lowest level in the Chicago White Sox organization. but give him a chance. He’s only 19 and he is equipped with impressive bloodlines.

His brother owns a $340 million contract from the San Diego Padres and, at age 22, will be the National League’s starting shortstop in the All-Star Game.

His father spent 11 years in the majors, a career highlighted by the day he tagged Chan-Ho-Park for two grand slam home runs – in one inning.

Fernando Jr., already a star, dotes on little brother Elijah’s progress, touching base with him daily, keeping track of his baby steps in the game. The White Sox are watching closely, too, after making a trade in 2016 that still haunts them.

Chicago was looking for a frontline pitcher and San Diego made James Shields available. The price seemed fair—pitcher Erik Johnson and a non-descript 17-year-old infielder – Fernando Tatis Jr.

It did not pan out for Chicago. After three sub-.500 seasons, the White Sox cut Shields free in 2018. A year later, Tatis arrived in San Diego, establishing himself as an important piece in the rebuild of the Padres. He batted .317 with 22 home runs, 53 RBIs and 16 stolen bases in his rookie season and was lighting up the town.

It wasn’t just the raw numbers that Tatis used to captivate San Diego. He has pizzazz, a style all his own, his dredlocks swinging behind as his runs the bases, the bat flip when he hits a home run, the occasional shimmy as he circles the bases. He makes sure to wear some pink—maybe a wristband, maybe arm sleeve as a message to his mother that he’s thinking about her. Even his eye black is a different design from game to game. He puts on some show.

There was a time this season when Tatis was leading the National League in home runs and stolen bases, a rather unique combination of offensive output. Hall of Famer Chuck Klein is the only major leaguer in 111 years to lead the league in those two categories. There is no guarantee Tatis will do it but he makes the chase exciting.

One thing is certain. Burned once, the White Sox won’t be trading the next Tatis anytime soon.

About the Author

Hal Bock

Hal Bock is a contributor with NY Sports Day. He has covered sports for 40 years at The Associated Press including 30 World Series, 30 Super Bowls and 11 Olympics. He is the author of 14 books including most recently The Last Chicago Cubs Dynasty and Banned Baseball's Blacklist of All-Stars and Also-Rans. He has written scores of magazine articles and served as Journalist In Residence at Long Island University's Brooklyn campus where he also served on the selection committee for the George Polk Awards.

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