Column: Remembering Yordano Ventura

Fans create a memorial for Kansas City Royals baseball pitcher Yordano Ventura outside Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017. Ventura died Sunday in a car crash on a stretch of highway near the town of San Adrian in his native Dominican Republic. He was 25. (Orrin Wagner/AP)

Sunday morning the baseball world woke up to another loss. 25-year-old Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic late Saturday. Immediate reactions from fans, players and the media highlighted how tragic the loss was considering Ventura’s outstanding potential as an ace for the Kansas City Royals.

Ventura’s death comes soon after 24-year-old Jose Fernandez, pitcher for the Miami Marlins, died in late September.

As baseball fans, it is easy for some of the first thoughts following a tragedy like Ventura or Fernandez’s deaths to be regarding their potential as baseball players. Fans know players mostly just as athletes. We are not always fortunate to have insight into the lives these players live and the character they possess. Of course, the thought crosses our minds about what the baseball world lost in these players passing and the potential these young men had to bring pitching to the next level in the years to come. It is not uncommon to see articles written following deaths about what numbers they posted on radar guns, how sneaky their changeups were, etc. While these are all accurate observations and their all-star caliber performances as baseball players should not be overlooked, it is important to remember these young men for much more than their sport.

Personal stories about Ventura from off the field, such as him dropping out of school at age 14 to help his mother pay the bills, help to illustrate what kind of person he was.

His strength as both a person and player stemmed from his childhood, when he worked for his grandfather’s hardware store, mixed cement and carried heavy objects such as concrete blocks frequently. He came up through the Royals system with many other Kansas City stars including Eric Hosmer, Salvador Perez and Mike Moustakas.

Shortly after his death, Perez told ESPN that there was nobody with a bigger heart on the team than Ventura and he would do anything for anyone. From a fan’s perspective, Ventura was seen as not only an outstanding pitcher but also one with a lot of anger as he was seen verbally fighting with players frequently. The latter was something Ventura was discouraged with, as he wanted to work on focusing his energy into his pitching, which Perez helped him achieve over the last few months. Although at times he seemed to possess a violent temperament, players remember Ventura as being anything but. His warm personality and infectious laughter were some things players made known in their tributes to Ventura in the days following his death.

My point is not to ignore Ventura’s outstanding baseball career. It is not to push aside the fact that he pitched seven scoreless innings against the Giants to force a World Series Game 7. Or even that he’d break 100 mph on the radar gun frequently. What Ventura achieved as a young baseball player is certainly special and worth celebrating. As baseball fans we need to remind ourselves to remember players not only for who they were on the field, or what their potential was, but to also remember them as human beings.


Molly Burkhardt is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at mary.burkhardt@uconn.edu.