Yordano Ventura wrote himself into the story of his hometown in the Dominican Republic long before he died in a car crash in January.
Now the late Royals pitcher will be further immortalized in Las Terrenas history when local baseball players parade into Estadio Municipal, the ballpark where a young Ventura honed his craft, for the inaugural Ventura’s Classic. Four teams comprised of kids ages 12 to 13 will play the inaugural three-day tournament on the weekend of June 3, which would have been Ventura’s 26th birthday.
“It’s a way for people to remember him here,” said Ventura’s longtime friend and trainer Abel Padilla, who organized the event.
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The logo for Ventura’s Classic features a silhouette of Ventura following through on a pitch, his leg kicked out high in front of him. It will be printed on T-shirts and other tournament paraphernalia.
“We’re just trying to do something nice that would make him feel good,” Padilla said.
The tournament is one of two things Padilla has planned to honor Ventura. When he met with The Star in February, Padilla had hoped to reach out to Royals officials to get help organizing a charity drive in Ventura’s name.
Ventura’s talent had plenty to do with his place in history — but what many townspeople in Las Terrenas remember about him was his unflagging support of the youth baseball program. Every year, Ventura would donate gear and apparel, including some of his own gently worn Royals T-shirts as well as children’s cleats and gloves.
Ventura had planned to start a foundation for youth baseball players that would deliver high quality equipment to those who otherwise could not afford it. It would have made the path to a tryout for major-league scouts just a touch smoother.
Ventura just never got the opportunity to put it in action.
“It’s not about money,” Padilla said. “It’s gloves, jerseys, things that he always donated and planned to do more with. ... Here at the ballpark is where we can start changing the culture.”