This morning, Royals starting pitcher Yordano Ventura and former big-league infielder Andy Marte died in separate car crashes in the Dominican Republic. Here are a few of the many reactions to and reflections on today’s tragic events.
- MLB commissioner Rob Manfred issued a statement about Ventura and Marte earlier today. “Today is a very sad day for our entire game and particularly for the many loyal fans in the Dominican Republic, the home of both Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte,” said Manfred. “Yordano was a key figure in the Royals’ recent success. His electric talent on the mound helped lead the Royals to two American League pennants and the 2015 World Championship. Andy was a respected member of six organizations who played seven Major League seasons, including for the Cleveland Indians from 2006-2010. On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my deepest condolences to the families, teammates, friends and fans of both players.”
- This morning was perhaps even more difficult than expected for Royals GM Dayton Moore, as Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports relate (Twitter links). Moore first heard about Marte’s death, then received a call about Ventura and thought it was a mistake. Moore and Royals assistant GM Rene Francisco were close with both players — Moore and Francisco were both in the Braves organization when Marte was a top prospect there.
- Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star offers a beautifully written remembrance of Ventura, who he describes as a fighter with sharp edges but a good person and prodigious talent. “[H]e was relentless and unapologetic and desperate to be great — both for himself, and for everyone back home for whom it meant almost as much,” Mellinger writes. “His teammates and coaches might occasionally grow frustrated at some of the rougher moments, but they saw a good soul, a big heart, and an earnest learner.”
- Rosenthal offers similar sentiments in a column for FOX Sports, noting that Ventura’s sometimes rough on-field demeanor was not all of who he was. “The Yo that I knew had the warmest of smiles, the most engaging of personalities, a genuine, effusive love for the game,” writes Rosenthal. “[H]e was a diligent worker, one of the Royals’ most regimented pitchers — a kid who was engaged between starts, watched film, worked on pitches, looked and acted the part.”
- Ventura has “always had a zest for life, an innocence about the game, a freshness, a fearlessness,” says Moore, via Dodd. “And he’s been really the same guy from day one, as far as his character traits and what made him special. He’s just a really passionate human. He loved to compete. He no doubt challenged us. But that made us better.” Dodd adds that police will take three weeks to complete a toxicology report, but there was no sign of alcohol at the scene of Ventura’s crash. The pitcher was not wearing his seat belt and lost control of his vehicle while driving through dense fog on a mountainous road.
- Ventura was the opposing starting pitcher in Marte’s last Major League game in 2014, MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince notes. In contrast to the fiery Ventura, Marte (formerly one of the top prospects in the game) was “an easygoing guy” who took his career disappointments in stride. Marte never could stick in the big leagues after coming up as a top prospect with the Braves and Indians (and, for a month, the Red Sox), and after stops in the Pirates, Angels and Diamondbacks organizations, he finally excelled in Korea, where he totaled 44 home runs with the KT Wiz between the 2015 and 2016 seasons. “The only thing I know how to do is play baseball,” he told Castrovince. “That’s why I didn’t stop.”