On Sunday, Jan. 22, baseball lost a stud. Yordano Ventura, 25, aptly nicknamed “Ace,” perished in a car accident in his home nation, the Dominican Republic.
Ventura, short and scrawny, was never meant to amount to much. He quit school at 14 years old so he could work in construction just to help his family make ends meet. In addition, his feisty attitude made it difficult for him to make friends.
However, after attending a Kansas City Royals tryout in 2008, his dominant fastball turned scouts’ heads, and he was offered $28,000 and the opportunity to join the Royal’s academy.
Fast-forward to 2014 and Ventura was the fastest-throwing starting pitcher in the American League with a fastball that averaged 96.2 miles per hour. His temper, once a hindrance, was now a quality that he could embrace and use to exploit the weaknesses of his opponents. By the end of 2015 he had signed a five-year, 25 million-dollar contract with the Royals, was a World Series champion and was married to the love of his life. Just a few months ago, his wife, Maria del Pilar Sangiovanni, delivered twins — the couple’s second and third children.
To make the senseless situation even more painful, the Dominican Republic lost another homegrown professional baseball player to a car accident just hours later. Andy Marte, 33, had most recently played in the MLB as an infielder for the Diamondbacks organization. Coincidentally, his final MLB appearance came against a Royals team that, on Aug. 6, 2014, started Yordano Ventura at pitcher. After limited playtime and struggles to stay in the majors, Marte spent the 2015 and 2016 seasons with the KT Wiz of the Korean Baseball Organization League.
It is still unknown if impaired driving played a role in the deaths of Ventura and Marte. What is known is that the Dominican Republic’s roads have the second highest mortality rate in the world. They are also responsible for the life of Oscar Tevaras, a Dominican outfielder who passed away in October of 2014.
Regardless of the outcome of Ventura and Marte’s toxicology reports, January 22 will be remembered as day of mourning for the baseball community.