Both the KC Royals and Texas Rangers honored pitcher Yordano Ventura’s memory before the teams’ spring opener on Saturday. Can Ventura’s passing help focus the Royals on a last title run before looming free-agency breaks up the core?
The Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers joint spring home at Surprise, Arizona will now feature a plaque in memory of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura, who passed away this winter following a tragic car accident in the Dominican Republic. Along with the plaque from the city of Surprise, Dominican Rangers players Adrian Beltre and Carlos Gomez placed flowers on the Surprise mound before a moment of silence.
Highlights from Ventura’s career played on the video board. Meanwhile the flag flew at half mast at Surprise Stadium before Saturday’s game.
Saturday’s observances won’t be the only tribute to Yordano Ventura’s memory this season. KC Royals players will wear an “ACE 30” patch on their sleeves every game during the 2017 season. Further, another memorial ceremony will take place on Opening Day in Kansas City.
KC Royals general manager Dayton Moore told USA Today’s Bob Nightengale on Saturday:
"“It’s important we get off to a good start, and our players understand that,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore tells USA TODAY Sports. “They understand the importance of playing with one another, playing with innocence and not getting caught up where they will be next year.“If it becomes more from the business side and less from the heart, then we will have to evaluate some things. We have to live in the moment, and as Yordano Ventura reminded us, tomorrow isn’t promised to us anyways.”"
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Catcher Salvador Perez told Nightengale in the same piece:
"“We don’t want to think about what might happen in the future,” says catcher Salvador Perez, who was one of Ventura’s closest friends. “We’re worried about now. We know we’ve got a lot of free agents that everybody wants.“But as long as we’re together, let’s win and show everybody what we’re made of.”"
While pundits can spin multiple emotional narratives around every team in major-league baseball, few are as compelling as the one that envelops the Kansas City Royals in 2017. Four core players in Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, and Alcides Escobar will hit free agency after the season. Starter Ian Kennedy can opt out of his contract, while projected fourth starter Jason Vargas is also poised to leave.
The four core players, along with pitcher Danny Duffy, closer Kelvin Herrera, catcher Salvador Perez and infielder Christian Colon grew up in Kansas City and the minor leagues together. 2018 can see Kansas City fall out of realistic contention.
Remember, also, that this is a team that won the 2015 World Series fueled by the disappointment of their seven-game loss to the Giants in 2014. Ventura’s passing will remind the Kansas City Royals that life is fleeting. You need to seize opportunities while they exist.
There are too many factors that can interfere with emotional inspiration to make predictions based upon them. Age, injuries, and opponents can all upset such narratives. However, Ventura’s memory could spur the KC Royals through the grind that the 162 game season will become.