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Oscar Taveras' death still impossible to believe

I woke up this morning with the unavoidable sense that - just maybe - the terrible overnight news about the death of St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras was only a horrible dream...

But my hopes were quickly dashed when I turned on the television and the first thing I saw was a report about the tragic car accident in the Dominican Republic which claimed both his life and that of his girlfriend, Edilia Arvelo.

It's so profoundly sad to see young lives cut short, no matter the circumstances. This incident has hit Cardinals fans, who for the past several years have eagerly awaited the arrival of their team's top prospect, especially hard.

How big of a deal was Taveras to Cardinals fans? Well... my seven-year-old son really only specifically recognizes the names of three current or recent St. Louis players: Albert, Yadi and Oscar.

There's been a buzz surrounding Taveras since he hit a breathtaking .386 at Class A Quad Cities in 2011. Even as Cardinals fans spent that season pondering the free agency of superstar Albert Pujols, talk had started that Taveras was going to be the next Pujols.

The excitement only intensified the following season when he made the huge jump to Class AA Springfield and hit .321 with 21 homers against some of the best pitching prospects in other clubs' arm systems.

He hit .306 in an injury-shortened season in 2013 and the lingering effects prevented him from making a serious bid to make the major league team in 2014 spring training.

Cardinals fans were thrilled on May 31 when the Redbirds, struggling to find an offensive spark, surprisingly summoned Tavares to the majors. In his second at-bat in the big leagues, he hit a home run that seemed like it was a scene from a movie.

It was raining big drops when Taveras lined a shot into the right field stands. The replays, complete with the big drops falling from the sky in slow motion, made the moment stand out. And now that moment in time will forever be how Taveras is remembered.

What should have been a long relationship, a decade of happy times, has been stolen away from Taveras and his fans. That's something that's extremely difficult to grasp.