On the morning of the 22nd of January, the news broke that Kansas City Royals starter Yordano Ventura, an up-and-coming pitcher who had a love for the game, was killed after a vehicular crash and reported robbery in the Dominican Republic, where Ventura was born.

Original reports said that Ventura had died as a result of the accident, but now, multiple sources have confirmed that Ventura had survived the accident, but those who found him robbed him and left him to die on the side of a mountain-side road. The new reports only make his death even more tragic than it was before.

However, instead of criticizing those who led to his untimely death, we should honor his life, and that will be done.

Ventura’s passing is the fourth major passing of a player since the 2014 World Series, when Oscar Taveras died in a car accident. Since then, the baseball community has lost Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez and ex-top prospect Andy Marte to other accidents, with Marte dying just hours before Ventura.

Yordano was a special talent shrouded in mystery. As a prospect, the Royals organization was giddy, like a kid in a candy store, waiting for his inevitable rise to stardom at the major league level. Signed by the team in 2008, Ventura spent nearly five years working his way up to the big league rotation, pitching to a 20-25 record across 97 games, including 83 starts, with an ERA of 3.48. He was highly acclaimed by many scouts, earning spots in the Top 30 prospects in baseball in 2014, after he debuted on September 17, 2013.

In 2014, Ventura put a spark into the Royals’ lively rotation, helping lead the team to its first World Series appearance since 1985. That year, he pitched to a 3.20 ERA across 30 starts and 1 bullpen appearance, finishing 6th in the Rookie of the Year voting. In the playoffs, Ventura continued his breakout, leading the Royals from the Wild Card round to Game 7 of the World Series.

However, in 2015, Ventura faced adversity for the first time in his career, as the club optioned the youngster to the minor leagues after a disastrous start to the 2015 season. However, the night he was optioned, his replacement, Jason Vargas, injured his elbow, opening up the opportunity for Ventura to return and prosper, which he did. In the second half of the 2015 season, Ventura posted a solid 3.56 ERA, bringing his total ERA down from 4.73 to 4.08. He was also a huge protagonist in the Royals’ run to the World Series crown, despite having five rocky starts within the playoffs itself.

In his final season, in 2016, Ventura was subpar, posting a 4.45 ERA across 32 starts, but despite the struggles, Ventura propelled himself to become the ace of the Royals staff.

Ventura’s talent was real, and his heart was even bigger. Despite his small stature, Ventura possessed a fastball that could touch triple digits, as well as a curveball that would make a hitter look extremely silly. However, his talent was overshadowed by his aggressive nature, as evidenced by his many brawls.

In 2015, Ventura caused a massive brawl when Adam Eaton of the Chicago White Sox hit a comebacker at Ventura, causing the brawl of the season. And in 2016, in a game against the Baltimore Orioles, Ventura hit Manny Machado in the ribs with a 99 MPH fastball, leading to Machado rushing the mound and beating Ventura to the ground, as well as leading to excessive criticism towards Ventura’s immaturity.

Despite his immaturity being as evident as ever, it never affected his heart as a player off the field. Ventura is well-known for his touching tribute to late friend Oscar Taveras in Game 6 of the 2014 World Series, as he wrote his initials on the mound and wrote his initials on his cap. What followed was the best performance of Ventura’s young life, as Ventura silenced the San Francisco Giants’ bats for seven shutout innings, leading to a Game 7. Furthermore, in 2016, after the death of Jose Fernandez, Ventura wrote his initials on his cap along with Taveras’, as shown by the following photo.

Ventura honors the passing of his friends (Courtesy of the Kansas City Star)

 

At only 25 years of age, Ventura’s untimely passing will undoubtedly leave a lasting scar within the Royals’ organization. For a man who had some much potential, he was only just beginning a career of stardom. Sadly, he will never be able to fulfill that dream, but it was a pleasure to watch his presence on the mound and his fiery spirit will never be forgotten.

Rest in peace, Ace.