Talent. Talent is what separated the 25-year-old Yordano Ventura on the mound. Ventura will not be remembered for the 96.1 m.p.h. fast ball he averaged during his brief but impactful 2 year MLB career or his Game 6 win in the 2014 World Series over the Giants. No, Ventura will be remembered by his family, friends, teammates and Dominican countrymen as a fierce competitor who cared deeply about the game of baseball.
After games, Ventura would often break down in tears, overwhelmed by the emotion he poured into his performance. Off the field, Ventura was charismatic. Kansas City coach Don Wakamatsu told MLB tonight, “I think [Ventura] gave more hugs inside the clubhouse than any player I’ve ever had.” Adding, “He had a huge heart.”
Ventura died in a car crash on Jan. 22 while visiting his native country the Dominican Republic this off season. It is a homeland he shares with Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz. When Ortiz heard the news through his agent, who represented Ventura as well, he was reminded of the dangers of driving on the sub par roads of his home country. “Everytime I see things like this happening – it just makes me really sad,” said Ortiz.
According to the World Health Organization, the Dominican Republic had the highest traffic death rate in the Americas in 2015, with [29.3 deaths per 100,000 per year.] Ventura crashed his vehicle on a highway 40 miles from the capital, Santo Domingo.
“From what I’ve been told, speed was not a factor. It was just a mountainous area with heavy fog. It’s obvious from the pictures that he did not have a seat belt on. Everybody in our organization is hurting right now, we were truly blessed to have been a part of his life. He will always be a special part of our organization.” said General Manager for the Royals Dayton Moore.
Rene Francisco, who is in charge of international operations for the Royals, was sent to the D.R. after news of Ventura’s death surfaced to provide support to the young pitcher’s family. Ventura is survived by his wife, Maria del Pilar Sangiovanni, whom he married prior to last season.
He will surely be missed this upcoming season by the Royals, a team with a great deal of success in recent years thanks in large part to their bullpen depth, but Ventura’s presence on the team cannot be measured in numbers. Widespread mourning throughout the MLB and the Royals reiterates the fact that Ventura was more than just an excellent young pitcher, he was a unique personality with a loving heart and an unrivaled competitive spirit. He will be dearly missed.
Travis Eckert, a fellow pitcher within the Royals organization, spoke on the life and death of Ventura, “Yordano Ventura was a fun guy to watch on the mound. Very intense. It was clear that he wanted to win every game with a burning passion whether he was pitching that day or not. Definitely a person that I wish I had the chance to meet and get to know. I feel like I could have learned so much more from him.”