Yesterday afternoon, while many of us in the Midwest were huddled around heaters to stay warm, Kansas City Star sports columnist Vahe Gregorian and photographer Dave Eulitt flew into Santo Domingo, capital city of the Dominican Republic.
Their mission: walk in the footsteps of pitcher Yordano Ventura, the precocious heir apparent to the top of the Royals’ rotation.
With a fastball that regularly topped 100 mph, Ventura, 23, went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA as a rookie last season, helping the Royals push the San Francisco Giants to a seven-game World Series.
Today, besides enjoying weather that’s a lot warmer than ours, Vahe and Dave are traveling by car with Rene Francisco, the Royals’ director of international scouting, to Ventura’s seaside hometown of Samana.
Francisco has been gracious enough to serve as a de facto tour guide for Vahe and Dave during their stay. This morning, a three-hour drive to the northeast was to shuttle them from Santo Domingo to Samana, where Ventura awaited to meet with them and show them around his old stomping grounds.
The remainder of the week will be spent with Ventura in Samana and at the Royals’ Latin American academy in Santo Domingo, a proving ground for ballplayers who hope to one day make it to America — perhaps to play in Kauffman Stadium, like Ventura.
Most of what Vahe and Dave see during this week’s adventure will be compiled into a multi-layered upcoming portrait of Ventura’s coming of age on KansasCity.com and in the print edition The Star.
But over the next few days, we’ll also post some of Dave’s images and Vahe’s words here, on Vahe’s Gregorian Chants blog.
For now, here are a few maps to acquaint you with the location of the Dominican, Santo Domingo and Samana.