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Over the winter, when Fernando Tatis Jr. was not working on trying to fulfill his goal of becoming the best baseball player ever, he exhausted his free time working on his farms in the Dominican Republic. He rode horses and fed chickens and tended to the lemons and hunted duck. Tatis might be the burgeoning face of baseball — his 14-year, $340 million contract with the San Diego Padres set to be announced today — but he’s plenty happy to soil that mug every now and again. More than once this offseason, Tatis found himself squatting in the dirt, milking cows.

If the thought of Tatis playing farmhand is utterly perplexing, well, get ready for more. He is not all swag and dreadlocks. If 2019 was the introduction and 2020 the breakout, 2021 is primed to be The Year of Tatis — the full blossoming of a staggering talent whose appeal goes well beyond the game of baseball. No disrespect intended to Mike Trout, who still holds the title of Best Player on the Planet, or Juan Soto, who is quickly locking down Best Hitter on the Planet, or Mookie Betts, who showed the ability to make an entire month his own when he stole October.

It’s just one of those moments in which everything aligns perfectly — the player, the team, the time. There have been triumphs and there will be impediments and it’s all part of the hero’s journey, which, when foisted on a 22-year-old, can feel a bit premature. Might be. Probably is. But then, Tatis is here, with all of these things, because when given other challenges, other burdens, he has slayed them. And with each conquest comes something more — this time, winning the Padres’ first championship or his first MVP award or doing the sorts of things only historically great players can actualize.


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