Yordano Ventura: RIP Ace
January 22, 2017 was the worst Sunday in a long time as I read the news about Yordano Ventura.
I’ll be honest. Friday was a difficult day given the inauguration. Saturday was better thanks to my friend’s birthday. However, since Sunday, I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster. Waking up and immediately reading about the car crash that claimed Yordano Ventura’s life had a profound effect on me. It doesn’t make any sense. I’ve watched him pitch at The K as well as on TV, but I’ve never met the man. Somehow, like many Kansas Citians, I felt like I knew him.
Perhaps it’s because I listened to sports talk radio jocks discuss all facets of his game. Maybe it’s because I read articles about his fearlessness on the field, his eagerness to learn from teammates and coaches in the clubhouse, and soft-spoken demeanor in the public eye. Or, more likely, it’s through a combination of everything I watched him become a man – one just scratching the surface of who he could be, who he wanted to be, and now will never be. So much potential gone, vanished on a Dominican Republic mountain highway. His potential hints at what saddens me the most.
For years, Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura have been the Royals’ Poster Boys of Potential. Fans have long speculated when the two of them were going to “put it all together” and they debated which one had the higher ceiling. Since, at the age of 23, Yordano stepped into the spotlight first – thanks to 2014’s World Series Game 6 – it appeared his star was ready to burst onto the scene. Obviously, we know what happened in Game 7, but that would serve as fuel for 2015.
Look out potential!
For all the Royals’ success in the 2015 season, Yordano still wasn’t reaching his potential. Fans may have forgotten that he was struggling so much that he was sent down to Triple A Omaha in the middle of the season. Sure, that didn’t even last a day as Jason Vargas got hurt, but it technically happened. Some argued that he didn’t even make it out of his driveway before being recalled. Still, something changed in him and he was a force after that demotion. Coming into the 2015 post season, many believed he would dominate. Instead, he struggled. He would up 2-2 in 5 games with a 6.43 ERA. Not exactly potential tapping let alone reaching. Being World Series Champions softens a lot of personal performance concerns and 2016 would be a new year.
You could say Yordano mirrored the World Champs’ 2016 season. He was scrappy, resilient, up and down, but ultimately neither reached their potential. Like every baseball team and player, hope springs eternal in the winter. Most have already read or heard his discussion with GM Dayton Moore right before Christmas where he stated he was going to win 18 games and 10 would be complete games. Yordano was confident, hopeful, and ready to finally reach his potential. A week or so ago, long-time Royals scout Art Stewart spoke about baseball players reaching their prime. He said they hit it between ages 25 – 28. Yordano would’ve turned 25 this summer.
None of this guarantees he would’ve reached his potential this year, but the signs sure pointed that direction. He spent his off-season in the Dominican Republic working on this craft and taking care of his family. He left behind his mother, his wife, and three children. As much potential as Yordano lost as a baseball player and a brother to his teammates, he lost more as a father, husband, and son.
It’s not losing his potential that saddens me. Potential is just another word for what? Hope. Don’t mistake me, all is not lost whether it’s for the Royals or for his family. Watching his teammates gather in their grief, whether it was at The K consoling fans or at the funeral in Las Terrenas, was heartbreaking and inspirational. There was and continues to be such an outpouring of love for this man.
Once again, I’ll be honest. As I sat down to write this post, I had no idea how I was going to get through it. Since Sunday, I’ve mostly been in tears. Tonight is no exception. I’ve been scared by this daunting emotion. I convinced myself the only way to get through it was to sit down and let the words flow. I hope these simple words help you remember Yordano as fondly as I do. Rest in peace, Ace. Rest in peace.