Our Jose Tabata Story

The Pirates and Jose Tabata are close to a deal that could lock up the talented outfielder for six years.

We spoke to Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Jose Tabata once.  It was at PiratesFest 2011.  Our question was simple.  How was winter ball Jose?

He looked at us with a stare that extended past our eyes and straight through the vast Convention Center walls, well past the floor to ceiling windows to a place far, far away.

We waited for our answer.  Hell, it seemed like a simple question.

The pause Tabata took was deafening.  We swear Doug Drabek, who was seated to Tabata’s right, signed three autographs as we stood waiting.

In our ignorance, we thought, maybe Tabata doesn’t understand our question?  Damn.  What should we do?

Tabata’s forearms gripped tightly on the Sharpie we had handed him.  He was focused.  His eyes were dialed in on a not-so-special photo of himself.  We had just grabbed the photo for a buck off a hometown vendor in the back.

But Tabatas’ pause was killing us.  At least five seconds had passed.

Hell….maybe he didn’t hear us?  I cleared my throat and was just about to repeat the question.  Maybe the question was too controversial since  the Pirates didn’t want him to have anything to do with playing winter ball last season?

But then Tabata spoke.  As he stared right though us, it was clear as a July morning in the Laurel Highlands.

The answer Tabata gave still echoes in our ears to this day:

I wish I was still there.

It’s not hard to understand the Pittsburgh Pirates wanting to extend a baseball player like Tabata.  He still loves the game.  That’s an overused statement in baseball today,  but it’s pretty clear to see that Jose Tabata loves nothing more than suiting up in black and gold to play a game he loves.

We’re  just glad he is on our team.

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Topics: Jose Tabata, Pittsburgh Pirates, Tabata Contract, Tabata Extension

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  • imallinpgh

    A little bit of context is important for this too. Tábata’s team, the Caribes de Anzoategui, hadn’t ever won a championship in the Venezuelan Winter League, but were in their second final during the days when he was scheduled to appear and sign autographs. As of Friday the 28th and Saturday the 29th, the Caribes’ opponent, the Tigres de Aragua (interestingly enough Ronny Cedeño’s team), had just tied up the series 2-2 and eventually went ahead 3-2 on the Caribes. A day after PirateFest, the Caribes had settled their first final in seven, winning the last two. Magglio Ordoñez was there hoisting the trophy but Tábata was stuck doing the good thing for his major league ball club. I was in Venezuela during the month of November and remember being seriously bummed out that Neal wouldn’t let him play like he’d originally intended to do. Eventually he played in December, but wasn’t allowed by the club to play any more after that. I’m sure he really wanted to contribute, especially in a tight series like that.

  • cocktailsfor2

    @imallinpgh

    Cool story!

    Yeah, I’m sure it killed him to not be able to play. The kid’s a GAMER.

  • cocktailsfor2

    See? SEE? THIS is why I need to move there – I just don’t get those opportunities in Chicago…

  • imallinpgh

    @cocktailsfor2

    Baseball is such a huge thing in Venezuela. Everywhere I went I’d ask people who their team was, and they’d have one. Most people loved the Leones de Caracas or the Navegantes del Magallanes of Valencia. I had to pick a team so I could talk about baseball with them, so I picked Tábata’s team, the Caribes. They were definitely Pirate-like in that they hadn’t won much of anything. Lucky me though, I picked the champs that year. I kept telling people that he’d be there within a few days (in November), and he showed, did interviews on the big sports network in his uniform, but he couldn’t play. Unfortunately he wasn’t super popular yet in the country so I was usually left to tell people about who he was. His contract story is the top baseball article on Caracas’ version of the New York Post today. They’ll know who he is there soon enough.