Fernando Tatis' return to major league baseball after a two-year absence had little to do with his desire to play the game, the New York Mets left fielder said Monday.
It had mostly to do with his desire to build a church.
"In my town, we needed to buy land to build a church," he explained Monday from his locker at Dolphin Stadium. "And I said to my family, the only way that we can buy the land is if I come back to baseball and make the money to buy the land to build the church for our town.
"That was the first step," he said.
Prior to that moment Tatis was simply staying at home in the Dominican Republic, spending time with his family. The only "game time" he had was playing catch with his children.
He didn't even pick up a bat.
Then, when he and his entire community wanted to build a church in his hometown of San Pedro de Macoris but lacked the money to purchase the land, Tatis said he resolved to return to the game to raise money.
"If God wants me to return to baseball, somebody is going to call me," Tatis, now 33, recalled telling his wife, according to the New York Daily News.
And one week after that proclamation, in 2006, that call came when a scout from the Baltimore Orioles reached him unexpectedly to express interest. After that moment, Tatis would attend spring training with the Orioles and later play one mediocre portion of the 2006 season before spending another year out of the Majors and hooking on with the Mets this past spring.
Now, he's the Mets' starting left fielder for a playoff contender. And the church his community wanted to build opened its doors three months ago.
"You put something in your mind and when you see the reality, and when you see the church is so beautiful, so big … it's amazing," Tatis said.
According to the Star-Ledger of New Jersey, Tatis pitched in almost $1 million for the construction of Jerusalem First Church, along with some other investors.
Though Tatis certainly had not imagined himself becoming an important piece to a contending club, he now finds himself in that position with the Mets neck-to-neck with the Philadelphia Phillies for the lead in the National League East division.
"To me, I take it this way: it's a blessing for me to be here," said Tatis, who is hitting .319 with a .519 slugging percentage in 160 at-bats as of Wednesday. "God has blessed me every day just to be here in the big leagues, to be alive. That's the way that I take it right now. And it's amazing."