The Return of El Niño


Ryan Casey Aguinaldo

Fernando Tatis Jr. in the infield for San Diego Padres during a game on July 10, 2021.

February 22, 2022 was the last time Padres fans have seen Fernando Tatis Jr. playing in the MLB. The fans were devastated — Tatis was recently signed to a monster contract and was proving his worth to San Diego as a star shortstop. Wrist surgery would leave Tatis out for 3+ months from a motorbike accident. In his recovery time, Tatis used Clostebol, a medicine containing a steroid, causing another huge delay in Tatis’ return time. The league would suspend him for 80 games. With backlash facing him at every angle, the city of San Diego waited for the return of El Niño.

San Diego fans fell out of love for Tatis. Word spread around that he was a very cocky player and just wanted fame. People started to really understand this after his 14 year, $340 Million dollar contract. His attitude got worse, he didn’t seem to care about his team in the dugout during games, and he was growing worse little by little. Once accusations of steroid use were thrown around the league, he was silenced and had no choice but to take the suspension and apologize to the team and the fans. Fans of the sport continued to laugh at Tatis and his supposed downfall in the league.

Months and months went by and Tatis Jr. was a thing of the past. Once 2023 came around, sparks of life came back, and fans were all of a sudden excited for his return. They remembered the young talent that they were missing all last season, and started to give El Niño a second chance with a fresh new year. His new humbleness around his team and in the media had fans thinking that this would be a new start. Especially with new superstars, such as Xander Boegarts and Juan Soto, this team could really create some damage in the postseason and win a World Series or two.

Tatis continued on a few months later with his first rehab assignment in the Triple-A league in El Paso. Tatis’ return was only a few more weeks out, and he wanted to let everyone know that he was ready. Tatis averaged a .515 batting average with 7 home runs. With an OPS of nearly 2 (OPS is the combination of a player’s batting average mixed with their on base percentage and strikeouts) in 8 games with the El Paso Chihuahuas, San Diego went electric when they got the news. Fernando Tatis Jr. was indeed back.

April 20th, 2023. 422 days later. Tatis finally makes his return to the game of baseball in Phoenix, Arizona. Everybody was extremely excited to get him back in the outfield, especially the clubhouse. Manny Machado, star 3rd baseman, said that “He’s a big part of this team, a big part of this organization, and we’re going to be with him the whole way. To have him back healthy, to have him back in that lineup and have him do the things that he’s capable of doing, is huge.” The support of this team towards Tatis has been highlighted in news everywhere, no matter how much backlash he has faced or what choices he has made.

Mark Loretta, former Padre and 2x All Star, lives in San Diego and frequently comes back to the stadium to watch games and talk to players on the team. Loretta’s high regards in the clubhouse is shown through each Padre to this day. I got the chance to interview him on how the whole clubhouse feels about Tatis being back in the lineup. “Tatis has really come a long way with his overall game. From being a young cocky superstar to the humble man he is today,” Loretta says, “ I truly believe that Fernando’s time off has allowed for him to mature as a person and as a player. I’m really excited to see his performance this year, along with how the team helps him. ”

Tatis, now 12 games into his season, is batting .225 with two home runs and is only getting hotter. His next series at home against the L.A. Dodgers is the first time these two rivals will meet this season. The highly anticipated game will be a true test for this San Diego team, let alone Fernando Tatis, to see the grit and capability of the star talent.