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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Interview Part 4: Kevin Tahan, Always Remember

The former Riverview Stadium in Clinton, Iowa, one of the stadiums Kevin Tahan played at in the Midwest League. (Greatest 21 Days)
Part 1: To Himself | Part 2: More Useful
Part 3: His Terms | Part 4: Always Remember

Kevin Tahan went back to independent ball and he went back to work.

After spending time with the Cardinals in extended training in 1995, Tahan returned to where he'd played 1994: Amarillo, Texas.

"I had a lot of fun in Amarillo the year before," Tahan recalled to The Greatest 21 Days of returning there.

He continued to have fun at Amarillo in 1995, so much fun that he began to have thoughts of getting back into affiliated ball.

Though he started late, Tahan got into 100 games for the Dillas that year and he hit .333, with 13 home runs.

"I was in great shape and really had the best season of my career," Tahan said.  "So after that there was no way I was no way I was going to quit. I was really hoping that I'd get an invitation back to camp with somebody."

That invitation never came. But Tahan did play three more years in independent ball, return to Taiwan and play a winter in Colombia, rounding out a decade in the game.

Tahan spoke to The Greatest 21 Days by phone recently from his San Diego-area home, covering his career in the game, what led up to it and the stops along the way.

Tahan spent three seasons in all at Amarillo. The team drew well in the new league, averaging 3,500 fans a night, he recalled.
Players getting ready before a Texas-Louisiana League game in 1998. Kevin Tahan played in that league from 1994 to 1997. (Ken Krahenbuhl)
Beyond right field of Amarillo's Potter County Memorial Stadium, he recalled, was the Tri-State Exposition fairgrounds, the fair referenced by George Strait in "Amarillo by Morning."

In his second season, he called those fairgrounds neighbor. He'd arrived late and needed a place to stay. The manager stayed at the stadium. Tahan asked the manager if he could stay there, too.

"Knowing that all the guys already had their housing situations arraigned, I asked if he wouldn't mind having a roommate and having me live on the player's side of the clubhouse," Tahan said, "He said, sure, why not?' So I lived in the clubhouse."

In addition to his .333 average and his 13 home runs that year - both career highs - he had 131 hits and knocked in 95 runs.

Fresh off that season, Tahan had his thoughts about getting back into affiliated ball. He even took the step to hire an agent, something he'd never had.

"I was thinking if I was going to get back to camp this could only help," Tahan said.

It didn't help. Tahan didn't get an invitation. He returned to Amarillo for 1996. He still hit well, .287, but his time was limited to 71 games.

But he did get an invitation to winter ball in Colombia. A former teammate had played there in the Colombian Professional Baseball League and he got Tahan an invite. So he spent that winter playing in Barranquilla.

"It was very boring, I'll tell you that," Tahan said.
Simmons Field in Kenosha, Wisc., in 2014. Kevin Tahan played at Simmons with Springfield in 1991 and 1992. (Greatest 21 Days)
There were six Americans on the team but no translators. Despite that, he recalled still having a good time.
The previous year at Amarillo Tahan had suffered a series of injuries, including to his hamstring. He played the second half of the season with his leg taped.

A new manager came in at Amarillo for 1997. Tahan's injuries from 1996 were largely kept quiet and there was talk Tahan wasn't hustling. He wasn't brought back. He got in contact with the manager of rival Alexandria. He and a former Amarillo teammate went there.

"I had a terrific time," Tahan said of Alexandria that year, "and as it turned out, we beat Amarillo in Amarillo for the championship. That was my one professional championship."

Tahan's second trip to Taiwan came in early 1998. This time it was with the Taiwan Major League, the upstart rival to the original league he'd played for the Chinese Professional Baseball League.

A scout who remembered him from high school was then an agent who had been speaking with the new league. He helped Tahan get a contract as a catcher this time.

Tahan spent camp with the Chianan Luka team, but he didn't make the club. The position of catcher went to a local from Taiwan. The foreign roster spots were used elsewhere.

"It was disappointing, but not surprising when I got released," Tahan said.

But he did get invited back one more time. After returning home to his stock job, there was an injury on another team in the league, the Taichung Agan. It was to an American catcher and Tahan got the job. He was guaranteed two months. He hit .242, knocking one home run.
The former Riverview Stadium in Clinton, Iowa, in 2014. Kevin Tahan played there in 1991 and 1992.  (Greatest 21 Days)
He'd been hitting better, but the original catcher was back. He thought he might get invited back if he left during a break. He went on a tour group to Bali for five days, returned and was released anyway.

Back stateside, Tahan made contact again with a team he'd spoken with prior to Taiwan, the Western League's Mission Viejo club. It would be his last stop. He got into 39 games and hit .312.

By that time, Tahan was 31 years old.

"Getting on the bus for that last road trip," Tahan said, "I was looking around and I was 10 years older than some of  those guys."

His shoulder was also killing him. He'd torn his rotator cuff at some point that year.

"It wasn't as much fun at that point," Tahan said. "There wasn't any real point to it anymore."

His career over, Tahan returned to Southern California. He worked in the securities industry, then investments. More recently, he works for Qualcomm. He's married and they have four cats.

Ask about any other games that stuck out to him over his 10 seasons, Tahan turned to one at Savannah and one at Springfield.

At Savannah, he recalled playing in Columbia before the All-Star break that year and being down 11-3. His team came back and won with Tahan contributing a pinch-hit double and then a home run. It helped him back from a tailspin.

Then there was Springfield in 1991. Tahan's team faced Cedar Rapids and Trevor Hoffman in Hoffman's first year as a pitcher. Tahan had recalled Hoffman from college, so that made what happened that night stick in his head.

"I definitely remember getting the hit to win," Tahan said. "You always remember what you do against people you know."

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

Be sure and read Part 1: Kevin Tahan, To Himself

1 comment:

  1. great interview -- San Diego fans always remember Kevin Tahan, from high school and even before.