Updated at 6:10 p.m. Monday with statements from John Mozeliak. Updated 10:45 a.m. Monday with a statement from Mike Matheny.
The St. Louis Cardinals are mourning the death of one of their brightest rookie players.
Oscar Taveras was killed in a car accident Sunday in the Dominican Republic when his 2014 Chevy Camaro ran off a road near his hometown, according to the country's national police spokesman and Taveras' agent. His girlfriend was also killed in the accident.
General Manager John Mozeliak and manager Mike Matheny are both in the Dominican Republic Monday night to attend a wake. The private burial serivce will be held Tuesday.
In a conference call, Mozeliak called Taveras an "elite talent" who had become "an identity of our organization."
"Most people that got to see him on a day-to-day basis understood what he was potentially capable of, and he was doing so at a very young age," he said. "You just don't have many Oscars."
Taveras made his major league debut with the Cardinals this year, hitting .239 with three home runs and 22 runs batted in in 80 games. He had been expected to compete for a starting job in right field next year.
Mozeliak, who first met Taveras when the player was 16-years-old, recalled his "tremendous smile" and his "zest for life."
"I will forever remember him as a wonderful young man who was a gifted athlete with an infectious love for life who lived every day to the fullest," he said.
Later, he added that he was stunned by Taveras' death, and that it "reminds you that life isn't fair."
"Last night, I had a hard time sleeping," he said. "I just kept asking the question, 'Why? Why now?' What I hope comes out of this, though, is that these young players that have this pedigree of being considered great, realize that they’re not bulletproof."
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was the team's catcher in 2002, when Darryl Kile died in a Chicago hotel room before a game at Wrigley Field. He said finding out about Taveras' death felt like a bad dream.
"I know the hurt that comes along with buying into the brotherhood of a baseball team," Matheny said in a statement. "That hurt is just as powerful as the joys that come with this life.
"In my opinion, the word "love" is the most misused, and misunderstood word in the English language. It is not popular for men to use this word, and even less popular for athletes. But, there is not a more accurate word for how a group of men share a deep and genuine concern for each other. We loved Oscar, and he loved us. That is what a team does, that is what a family does. You will be missed, Oscar."
"We are all stunned and deeply saddened by the tragic loss of one of the youngest members of the Cardinals family," team chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said in a statement. "Oscar was an amazing talent with a bright future who was taken from us well before his time. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends tonight."
The cause of the fatal accident was not immediately clear. A police official in the Dominican Republic told USA Today that recent heavy rain along the country's Atlantic coast may have played a role.
Major League Baseball commissioner Bug Selig dedicated Game 5 of the 2014 World Series in San Francisco to the couple with the following statement:
"All of us throughout Major League Baseball are in mourning this evening, shocked by the heartbreaking news of the accident involving Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras and his girlfriend in the Dominican Republic. Oscar, a young member of the Baseball family, was full of promise and at the dawn of a wonderful career in our game, evident in his game-tying home run against the Giants exactly two weeks ago. ... On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my deepest condolences to the families and friends of both individuals, as well as to Oscar's teammates and the entire Cardinals organization."
The Cardinals organization is still working on plans for fans to publicly memorialize Taveras. In the meantime, tributes to Taveras poured in on Twitter.
STL extends our condolences to Oscar Taveras' family and Cardinal Nation. #fgs
— MayorSlay.com (@MayorSlay) October 27, 2014
My condolences to Oscar Taveras family. This is a sad day. Heartbreaking news!! pic.twitter.com/8jYmBQmScT
— Yadier Molina (@Yadimolina04) October 27, 2014
Horrible news. Prayers go out to OT's family and friends.
— Jason Motte (@JMotte30) October 27, 2014
Tragic news about oscar and girlfriend. Prayers for both families. His influence on his teammates and the organization won't be forgotten.
— Trevor Rosenthal (@TrevRosenthal) October 27, 2014
(Some information was reported by the Associated Press.)