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Sunday, March 5, 2023

Willie Tatum dreamed of playing pro; Saw eight pro seasons, made AAA, passed in 2018

Willie Tatum 1990 Lynchburg Red Sox card, Tatum posed in batting stance

Drafted by the Rangers out of high school, Willie Tatum instead went to college played both basketball and baseball. But, The Sacramento Bee wrote in March 1989, he'd always wanted to play pro baseball.

"Ever since I was a little kid I dreamed about playing pro," Tatum told The Bee as he prepared for his second season in the Red Sox organization. "I got better and better at basketball, but I knew baseball was my thing."

Tatum went on to a pro career that lasted eight seasons. He topped out at AAA.

Tatum's career began in 1988, taken by the Red Sox in the ninth round of the draft out of the University of the Pacific.

Tatum started with the Red Sox at short-season Elmira. He hit .287 over 58 games. That July, he spoke to The Elmira Star-Gazette about his hopes in the game amidst his first season.

"I hope to stay in it and go as far as I can go," Tatum told The Star-Gazette. "Maybe I'll be traded, but I hope to get to Boston. This is something I love doing."

Tatum moved to single-A Winter Haven for 1989, then high-A Lynchburg for 1990 and 1991. He hit .287 in 126 games in his second season in Lynchburg.

He made AA New Britain for 1992 and hit .242. He saw an abbreviated 50-game 1993, but also played seven of those games at AAA Pawtucket. He went 2 for 24.

He returned to the field in 1994, but in independent ball. He played at independent Saskatoon and  Champaign-Urbana. He then saw independent Minneapolis in 1995 and Yucatan in Mexico. That 1995 season proved his last as a pro.

Tatum soon returned home to California. In May 2018, he gained notice as he walked the stage to get his University of the Pacific diploma years after he earned it.

“During the time that I first signed I promised my grandmother that I'd finish my degree. And I thought finishing off the commencement would finish off what I promised her," Tatum told Sacramento's Fox40 in May 2018.

The occasion, though, was that Tatum was dying of cancer, stage four of a rare form. Tatum passed away in October 2018 at the age of 51. 

Willie Tatum 1990 Lynchburg Red Sox card, Tatum posed in batting stance

1990 Minor League Tally 
Players/Coaches Featured:4,136
Made the Majors:1,367-33.1%
Never Made Majors:2,769-66.9%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors:556
10+ Seasons in the Minors:337

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