Fernando Tatis Jr. talks injury rehab, Padres legacy, James Shields trade and more

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San Diego Padres star Fernando Tatis Jr. is one step closer to returning, he revealed in an interview with FanSided.

After a doctor’s visit on Tuesday afternoon, San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. is closer to receiving clearance to start taking full swings. And when he eventually returns, one of baseball’s biggest stars will immediately join arguably one of the best teams in baseball.

Tatis Jr. joined The Baseball Insiders Podcast on Tuesday to talk about his recovery, how his life has changed since signing his 14-year, $340 million contract, his relationships with Damian Lillard and Sammy Sosa and what it was like being traded by the Chicago White Sox in 2016.

Fernando Tatis Jr. discussed his injury rehab in an interview with FanSided

How are you feeling?

Fernando Tatis Jr. : Everything is looking pretty good. Today I had one of those meetings where I met with the doctors. Moving forward, I feel like we’re in a really good spot right now.

It’s been a learning process. … I feel like we’re managing ourself. Our doctor is doing a great job. I feel like we’re moving forward right now. It’s coming together. I’m one step behind from a full go. I feel like that step is going to come really, really quick at this pace.

You’ve played baseball since you were 8 years old. How hard has this been for you?

Tatis Jr: It’s been hard. It’s been hard. I’ve never missed this much time out on the field. It feels horrible. I just want to be out there. I want to be with the boys. I have 12 more years with the Padres, so you have to be smart and not rush it.

You mentioned that you’re signed for 12 more years. How has your life changed since you signed that $340 million contract?

Tatis Jr: You’re more comfortable financially, but it’s a really big compromise. How are you going to set yourself up for the future? What kind of legacy are you going to leave behind? I just think about baseball and don’t have to focus on anything else and everything is going to take care of itself.

Let’s circle back to when you were a kid and hanging in the clubhouse with your Dad. Do you remember anyone standing out as being super cool to you?

Tatis Jr: I have more memories when he (Fernando Tatis Sr.) was with the Mets. I remember Jose Reyes always having fun with me and my little brother. Angel Pagan was always a great guy to us and to my family. I had Carlos Beltran, too. Most of the Latin guys were really close with my dad and they were really great to us. That was a pretty great clubhouse and a pretty good team.

Has that impacted how you play the game/interact with fans?

Tatis Jr: For sure. That gives you a great feeling. I was a fan when I was a kid and now I get to interact with people and with fans. I remember that feeling. I remember how that felt. It gives me a little more motivation and that 10-15 seconds is probably going to leave a mark on someone for the rest of their lives.

Who were some of the players you looked up to growing up?

Tatis Jr: As a kid, I looked up to a lot of guys. I feel like my game has small parts of those guys. Derek Jeter. Jose Reyes. Hanley Ramirez. A-Rod. Those guys were the main ones growing up. I haven’t talked much to those guys about baseball, but one guy that I call my “Godfather” in baseball is Robinson Cano. That’s the mind that I’ve picked the most. He knows a lot about hitting, a lot about baseball and how to slow down the game. Having the chance to learn from a guy like that is huge.

Are you looking at the second half like “I’m coming back, this team is right in position. Why can’t we just win the World Series this year?”

Tatis Jr: For sure. That’s the mentality for everyone out here. The way this team is playing, the players that we got, how the team keeps moving forward without having key players.

We had mentioned before the joy you have on the field. There’s an ESPN headline that says “Fernando Tatis Jr. is bringing the joy back to baseball.” When you hear that, what goes through your mind?

Tatis Jr: It’s crazy. It’s crazy. Every time I’m at the park, you’re just trying to be that kid who used to watch his dad play, want to run the bases on the field and slide no matter what. When I’m on the field, I have those same memories. That same feeling in my heart. Every time I’m out there I’m trying to give it everything that I have.

On a lighter note: I had a little birdie tell me that you have a relationship with Damian Lillard. Is that accurate?

Tatis Jr: I know him and we’ve talked a little bit. When he was doing well during the season, I was texting him like “Keep balling.” Last year, when I was doing good, he was texting me “Keep being a killer.” When people like that … you know they’re watching and I feel like that’s really big for us athletes.

You have the No. 1 pick: LeBron James or Steph Curry. Who are you taking?

Tatis Jr: You’re making it hard. I love Steph, but this time I have to go with LeBron.

What was your reaction when you were traded to the White Sox? Were you bummed? Excited to get to the big leagues?

Tatis Jr: You always have that feeling to a team that gave you the first chance to come to the game as a professional athlete. I really appreciated the White Sox for giving me a chance. They traded me and I know it’s part of the game. It’s hard for me. I was only 17 when I got traded. I hadn’t even played my first professional game. I was like, “Do I suck?” It was a brand new experience. I really embraced it.

Do you know who you were traded for?

Tatis Jr: James Shields.

Sammy Sosa is also from San Pedro de Macoris. Do you remember watching him as a kid?

Tatis Jr: For sure. Who doesn’t remember Sammy? I feel like he was one of those guys who brought joy to the game with the way that he played with the character that he was on the field. Especially for us Dominicans being from the same hometown. I was at his home this offseason talking about hitting and how I can take it from 40 to 60. It was a really good conversation.

What were some of the things he told you about hitting?

Tatis Jr: It was more of the mentality. He said, “You don’t need to fix anything at home plate.” It’s more the mentality and the grind. How do you change from being happy with one home run to trying to hit 2-3 in one night? How to be more of a killer. How to stay in shape. How to stay comfortable within yourself at the plate. It was really great, deep conversations about hitting.

Tatis Jr. spoke with FanSided on behalf of Dairy Queen and their new Summer Blizzard menu.

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