How to Introduce MLB's Next Great Superstar, Fernando Tatis Jr.
Those who have heard me at Petco Park, on television, or in MLB The Show know I have a unique style when it comes to introducing players. Primarily, I'm known for the extended pause I allow for between a player's first and last name.
I do it for a few reasons:
The first is clarity. I believe every player deserves to have their name pronounced correctly in a manner which everyone can understand. That is especially important to me at this level. It's a respect they've earned.
The second is for dramatic purposes. For home batters, I aim to build excitement and an expectation of what's to come. It's an invitation for the audience to become engaged and participate... to be a part of something bigger.
Home introductions can evolve over time as players develop and fans build relationships with them. Their chosen walk-up music can also alter the timing of my delivery, as I aim to "hit the post" and create the total package (I used to be a radio guy, it's a lost art).
Above all, it's the moment. Picture this:
A late September evening. A sold-out Petco Park. The rival Dodgers. A late game rally. Bottom of the ninth, score tied. Bases loaded. Division on the line...
Walking to the plate, star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr.
This is a story about introducing Major League Baseball's next great superstar.
On June 4, 2016, when the Chicago White Sox traded then-17-year-old Fernando Tatis Jr. (along with pitcher Erik Johnson) to the Padres in exchange for embattled pitcher James Shields and cash.
Signed as a free agent one season earlier for a then-franchise record 4-year, $75-million contract, Shields began the '16 campaign with a disastrous 2-7 win-loss record and an embarrassing home run to Mets pitcher Bartolo Colón (at 43, his first, and only).
At the time, the White Sox were 29-25, and in need of starting pitching depth to make a playoff run. On paper, Shields, a former All-Star and postseason veteran provided just that.
On the flip side, the Padres were parting ways with big names and big contracts. Prior to adding Shields for 2015, the team traded for all-stars Matt Kemp, Craig Kimbrel, and Justin Upton, amongst others. Long story short, the large investment yielded little return.
To many outsiders, Tatis was a lottery ticket for a lengthy rebuild. In his analysis of the trade, ESPN's Jim Bowden was more favorable, saying:
"[Tatis] has a chance to develop into a high end elite type prospect [and he] has the hit tool and size to eventually be middle of the order type impact bat. Good get here for Padres."
Good get, indeed.
Origins of the Introduction
Prior to that trade for Tatis, I started experimenting with an extended cadence for names with suffixes. In the mix of talent acquired for 2015, the Padres picked up outfielder Melvin Upton, Jr., the older brother of Justin.
Melvin, formerly (and once again) known as B.J., was a superb athlete who had fallen on hard times. Drafted second overall ten years earlier by Tampa Bay, he signed a 5-year, $75.25M free agent deal with the Braves in 2012 and hit a paltry .198--striking out in over a third of his at-bats there.
However, with lower expectations in San Diego, Upton, Jr. experienced a career renaissance of sorts. Over 92 games in 2016, he raised his batting average to a respectable .256, hitting two lead-off homers and three walk-offs. He also played outstanding defense in left field, and became a mentor to a now young--and getting younger--Padres clubhouse.
Not to mention, he had the coolest straight steal of home I've ever witnessed.
The player, himself, was reborn.
"Melvin... Upton... Junior!" the introduction, was born.
El Niño's Debut
Melvin departed for Toronto later that summer and the intro was shelved. Though, it wouldn't be long before I was eager to resurrect its style for a potentially much bigger star.
Following the trade to San Diego, Fernando Tatis Jr. grew quickly through the Padres ranks, literally and figuratively.
He gained height and physical strength, hitting for a combined .273 in rookie and short-season ball before moving up to the Class-A Midwest League for a majority of the 2017 season. In Fort Wayne, Tatis kept a consistent average, while adding 22 home runs and 75 runs batted in. He also increased his fielding percentage and stole 32 bases before a call-up to AA San Antonio. Only a left thumb injury stopped him in 2018.
The buzz was at an all-time high. Tatis was entering 2019 as the game's number-one overall prospect, and to the joy of the Friar Faithful (and the surprise of many others), he was added to the Padres' Opening Day roster.
Opening Day, 2019. Partly cloudy, a cool 68°. 44,655 in attendance. A record number watching live on FOX (now Bally) Sports San Diego. Perhaps the most-anticipated introduction in the 50 years of the Padres franchise. A 20-year old phenom breaking the starting lineup.
"...making his Major League debut, the shortstop number 23, Fernando... Tatis...... JUNIOR!"
A Star is Born
The hype was wholly justified. Tatis recorded his first Major League hit in his first Major League at-bat. He was 2-for-3 on the day, making him the youngest player to record a multi-hit game on Opening Day since 1975.
Nothing short of a human highlight reel, Tatis has since made leaping grabs and diving stops look easy. He routinely stretches singles into extra-base hits, swipes bags, and drives towering blasts. Had his rookie season not been cut short by injury after 84 games, Tatis might've become the just the fifth shortstop to join the illustrious 30-30 club, as measured by home runs and stolen bases.
In an interview with The Athletic, World Series champion, and now Padres Associate Manager, Skip Schumaker said:
“He does something on the field that blows your mind every day...This kid is a freak and could be the face of the franchise for a long time.”
Beyond the clubhouse, national media also took notice. ESPN premiered Senior MLB Insider Jeff Passan's Fernando Tatis Jr. Cover Story last Fall. Reserved for what the network calls "the biggest stories on the most captivating athletes," the video feature included within the monthly column aired on SportsCenter throughout the day.
At the 2:45 mark, my introduction.
A Life of its Own
As Passan noted, he is the son of Fernando Tatis, a highly-respected Major League veteran of eleven seasons. Though he may share a name with his father, "El Niño" is a man honing his own legacy.
And the growing emphasis I place on "Junior" is a nod to that individual journey.
In the eyes (and ears) of the Friar Faithful, their relationship between Tatis and his intro have become so symbiotic, and representative of their experiences, it too has taken on a life of its own.
On a virtual visit to Padres Social Hour during the pandemic, host Jesse Agler asked if I would recreate it for those missing the magic of Petco Park.
I was honored.
Much like my process for crafting introductions, this story doesn't finish because it's still evolving. Tatis is a generational talent in the midst of becoming a cultural sensation.
In just his second Major League season--one without fans in the stands--Tatis was arguably the most-watchable player in baseball, as he led the Padres to their first Postseason appearance since 2006.
Last February, Tatis was announced as the cover athlete for Sony's MLB The Show 21--the youngest player, and first Padre ever, to receive the honor. He also signed a landmark $340M extension, keeping him in San Diego for the next fourteen seasons.
Through the first-half of the 2021 campaign, Tatis led the National League in slugging, home runs, and stolen bases, earning him starting shortstop honors in the MLB All-Star Game. He will become the first Padre to make an All-Star start after being voted in since "Mr. Padre" himself, Tony Gwynn, in 1998.
The sky is truly the limit. The only question is:
When the next moment arises, will you be there to hear it introduced?
For more of Alex's work at Petco Park, check out his Live TV and VO Demo. It features introductions from the 87th Major League Baseball All-Star Game, as well as Opening Day 2018, for the newly-inducted Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman.