Royals fans are used to rallying together, but typically in a more celebratory setting. Teammates and fans gathered outside of Kauffman Stadium Jan. 22 to mourn the loss of 25-year-old Royals starting pitcher Yordano Ventura, who died from a car crash in his home country, the Dominican Republic. The news came as a shock to the city, which had expected him to remain a vital part of the team at least until his contract ended in 2021.
The MLB has lost multiple players to accidents in the D.R. in the past few years. Former St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras died in a car crash with his girlfriend in the Dominican in 2014. Ventura, pitching in Game 6 of the World Series only days after this news had hit, wrote “R.I.P. O.T. #18” on his hat to honor his friend during the game. Former third baseman Andy Martes died the same day as Ventura in a different auto accident in the D.R.
Ventura was the type of player people either loved or loved to hate. Royals fans praised his velocity, which registered up to 102 mph. He came in clutch in Royals postseason games, specifically during game 6 of the 2014 World Series, when he recovered from five walks and three hits in seven innings and forced the series to go to seven.
However, he also caused the management a few headaches throughout his career. He caused brawls during three consecutive starts in the 2015 season for verbal disagreements and intentionally hitting batters. And people say that baseball is boring.
During his short three year career in the majors, he managed to make a name for himself by starting in 93 of his 94 appearances. He became one of the hardest throwing pitchers in the league and secured 38 wins with an ERA of 3.89 and a total of 470 career strikeouts.
Royals players and coaches traveled to the D.R. to support the Ventura family during the funeral services. The Royals organization is overwhelmed with support and memorabilia, but they want to keep this honor within the team for now. Out of respect, they have decided not to sell gear with Ventura’s name on it to the public. Instead, they will wear jerseys with a special patch that says “ACE 30” to honor their former teammate. Pitcher Danny Duffy bought Ventura’s bobblehead on eBay and plans to send it to his mother, and a memorial fund has been established that will go towards improving baseball facilities in the D.R. The team has still not decided how they will approach Spring Training and Opening Day.
Ventura entered the majors at a pivotal time for the Royals, and he left them too soon. He was part of their first postseason run in 29 years. He was part of the 255,000 gathered for the World Series Parade. He was part of Kansas City, and he was a part of the game. His legacy will live on with the team, and the fans will not forget him.