Another tragic loss of a pair of baseball players this weekend, reminds us that those players that we love, and sometimes love to hate, are more than just what we see in that nine inning look that we get on television. A fiery, and sometimes embattled youngster, Yordano Ventura is a prime example of the disconnect that we have as fans.
On Sunday Morning news broke that Andy Marte and Yordano Ventura were both lost in separate fatal motor vehicle accidents in their native country of the Dominican Republic. As the baseball world, and the families and friends of Marte and Ventura mourned the loss of their loved ones, I thought of how often the fiery 25-year-old Yordano Ventura took criticism for his on-field antics, and rightfully so most of the time.
In 2014, in game six of the World Series, Ventura honored his friend and fellow native Dominican, former St. Louis Cardinals outfielder, Oscar Taveras. Taveras was also killed in a motor vehicle accident, involving the use of alcohol, in the Dominican Republic on October 26, 2014.
In that game Ventura pitched seven scoreless innings, en route to a game six victory to force a decisive game seven match-up between the Royals, and the San Francisco Giants. The Royals would fall to the Giants in that game seven of the 2014 World Series, but the game six moment was still just as meaningful for Ventura.
During a stretch in the beginning of the 2015 season Ventura would come under fire for the use of his best attribute, his triple digits fastball, when he decided to use it in sending messages to opposing hitters, rather than using it to strike them out. Ventura was involved in a bench-clearing incident in three consecutive starts in April of 2015, and ejected twice during that span.
First by confronting Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout as he crossed the plate, before being ejected in his very next start for intentionally hitting Oakland Athletics infielder Brett Lawrie with a pitch. In his next start in Chicago, Ventura exchanged words with former Chicago White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton as Eaton ran out a ground ball down the first base line, causing another bench-clearing brawl, that resulted in five ejections.
On June 7, 2016 Ventura intentionally drilled Baltimore Orioles third-baseman with a fastball, after the two exchanged words in Machado’s previous at-bat on the afternoon, sparking a physical confrontation between the two on the mound, and an ensuing bench-clearing incident between the two clubs.
I remember in June of last season, hearing and seeing a substantial amount of criticism towards Ventura for his on-field antics, that rubbed many the wrong way. Ventura was deemed a nuisance by many fans and opposing players after his series of skirmishes with other teams. Ventura was a misunderstood individual outside of the Royals clubhouse, where the Royals loved his fiery enthusiasm and willingness to send a message to an opponent without the slightest hesitation.
The moral of this story, as far as a baseball fan should be concerned, would be that sometimes it unfortunately takes a tragedy to remind us that baseball, in all of its glory, is just a game at the end of the day.
Sure, as fans, we live for baseball, and in turn, we lose sight of the fact that after the game, guys like Yordano Ventura hit the showers, put on their street clothes, and go home to their everyday lives. Whether they go home to be a father, a husband, a son, a brother, etc., they are someone other than the person that we see on television for nine innings each day.
Ventura’s Royals’ teammates were devastated by the loss of their brother “Ace” on Sunday, and poured their emotions onto their social media platforms, paying respect to the Yordano Ventura that we didn’t know, the one that they loved.
Royals teammate Christian Colon said it best in regards to the whirlwind that Ventura was on the field, and the beloved teammate and friend that he was off of the field;
“How can I even begin to explain how much I cared about you? You were like a little brother to me. You were a tough one to deal with, but with your love and smile you could always make everything OK. We would have long conversations about life, about how much we wanted to be great in all aspects of life. I knew the struggle that you had to overcome to get where you were and I could always see it in your eyes that you wanted more. I knew your secrets and I knew your strengths. I knew anytime you needed a teammate to help you with something, that teammate would be me. I’m so happy to be able to say that I knew you. I’m going to miss you more than you know. I know at times you were tough, but I knew you were just misunderstood. Love you bro, and you will forever have a special place in my heart.”
White Sox fans are more than familiar with the antics that garnered Ventura his nuisance reputation among those outside of the Royals clubhouse, but none of the punches thrown, or words exchanged between the two clubs matter now.
Now all that matters is what Ventura was to his Royals teammates, his family, and his friends. The people that knew the Yordano Ventura outside of his fiery and sometimes overwhelming presence on the baseball diamond.
In the last half of a year we have lost Jose Fernandez, Andy Marte, and Yordano Ventura to fatal motor vehicle and boating accidents, and just two years prior, Oscar Taveras was claimed by a fatal crash.
The baseball world is mourning these tragedies, these polarizing figures gone too soon, but we should all take this opportunity to remind ourselves that these figures are more than just the three hour snippet that we see on television. They’re humans, they’re fathers and brothers, and friends. They’re loved, and they will be missed by many moving forward.