Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Interview Part 1: Kevin Tahan, To Himself

A Cardinals minor leaguer crosses the plate at Palm Beach in 2011. Kevin Tahan played for the Cardinals in the minors from 1989 to 1993. (Greatest 21 Days)
Part 1: To Himself | Part 2: More Useful
Part 3: His Terms | Part 4: Always Remember

Kevin Tahan recalled being probably more relieved than anything else.

This was June 1989 and Tahan had been drafted, but just barely. He'd taken by the Cardinals in the 43rd round out of United States International University

"Looking back," Tahan recalled recently to The Greatest 21 Days, "I'm wondering if I probably shouldn't have been even more relieved than I was. Because at that point, instead of being a young graduate, I was 22.

"That's pretty late to get a start."

But he was a pro.

The San Diego-native signed his contract with the Cardinals and headed off to rookie ball in Arizona.

"Of course, it's exciting," Tahan said. "That's what most of us that played in the street, in Little League or at any level - that's what everybody dreams about.

"I did not take it for granted."

Though he started late, Tahan went on to a professional career that spanned a decade in both affiliated and independent ball.
Kevin Tahan played with single-A Springfield in 1991 and 1992. Photo is of the home field of Springfield rival Clinton in 2014. (Greatest 21 Days)
He never made the majors or AAA, he he did see time in winter ball in Colombia and multiple stints in Taiwan.

Tahan spoke to The Greatest 21 Days recently by phone from his San Diego home. He spoke about growing up and learning the game, turning pro after college and his path from rookie ball to Taiwan to 10 years in the game.

Tahan remembered growing up playing catch with hsi dad in the back yard and hitting plastic balls.

He also played with the neighborhood kids, even some older ones. He recalled the only way he could get in with the older kids was to convince his dad to get him a set of catcher's gear at Sears.

"They let me come over to be their catcher," Tahen recalled, "but I never got to hit."

Soon enough, though, Tahan started to catch up. By the time he hit San Diego's Patrick Henry High School, Tahan was right there.

He played in a competitive league. He also played with prospects himself, including future major leaguer Randy Hennis. (2014 Hennis Interview) Tahan also played on a summer scout team.

The scouts themselves seemed to be at all the games looking at somebody, Tahan recalled. To him, they seemed to blend in. "The game was in front of you, not in the stands," he said.

Tahan ended up getting some looks from some top colleges. One that seemed particularly interested was Stanford.
The 1986 Stanford baseball team, including Kevin Tahan. (Photo Provided)
"Once Stanford started recruiting me, there was no question that if I had the opportunity to go to Stanford, that that's what I was going to do," Tahan said.

That's what he did. Stanford signed him on a partial scholarship and he went. It didn't turn out as he had hoped.

Tahan stayed there for three years and the team won the national championship in his third year, but Tahan's contributions were few. He hardly suited up his first two years and played sparingly that third year. His playing time was largely limited to summer ball.

"It was really hard at first," Tahan said. "But at the same time, you want to talk about life lessons..."

He realized if he was going to continue his college career, it'd have to be somewhere else. He landed at U.S. International University in San Diego.

He played there for two years and made academic All-American both seasons, he recalled.

With that, he said, he showed he could play. Showing he could play, he recalled, probably had as much to do with his long pro career. He continued playing even after it became clear he wasn't going to make it to the majors.

"It felt good to prove, if only to myself, that I belonged out there," Tahan said of those later years as a pro. "It just validated the choices to push through and keep doing it."

He also wound up with two bachelor's degrees, one from Stanford and one from USIU.
Keven Tahan played at Clinton's Riverview Stadium in 1991 and 1992 with Springfield. Photo is from 2014. (Greatest 21 Days)
By the time his final college season came around, Tahan recalled felling like his old self. The regular scouts came to games watching Tahan and others.

When draft day came, he believed he'd be drafted and he was - in the 43rd round. He got $1,000 to sign and his choice of lunch. In his "infinite wisdom," Tahan chose Fuddruckers.

"I rolled into Arizona wearing cowboy boots that I bought in Tijuana," Tahan said. "They were a size too small and by the time I got off the plane, my feet hurt so bad."

The other thing he remembers is the heat - regular highs over 100 and lows in the 80s. All with 10 a.m. starts.

"There were so many days when I thought to myself 'This is not what I was expecting in pro ball,'" Tahan said.

What he also wasn't expecting was to play first base. Tahan had played some infield in high school, but fielding problems forced him into the outfield, generally left.

The first base job for the rookie team came almost on a whim, or basically out of necessity, he recalled. During the first team meeting, the manager asked for a show of hands by position.

"When he got to the outfield, I looked around and half the room had their hands up," Tahan recalled. "When he got to first base, I looked around and nobody had their hands up. So I raised my hand."

The 43rd-round draft pick was a first baseman. His pro career had begun. (Go to Part 2)

Part 1: To Himself | Part 2: More Useful
Part 3: His Terms | Part 4: Always Remember

Go to Part 2: Kevin Tahan, More Useful

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