Before he pitched on Saturday for Miami, former Royal Edinson Volquez took to Instagram to post a tribute to Dominican Republic countryman Yordano Ventura on the occasion of what would have been Ventura’s 26th birthday:
“Miss you broth HBD to Ace Ventura one love,” he wrote to accompany a picture of them together.
Then Volquez somehow concocted one of those things that was simply too good to be true, the sort of tale that would have been rejected by Hollywood for being too preposterous.
On this of all days, Volquez unfurled a no-hitter against Arizona, the very notion of which induces waves of chills merely in typing the words.
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His magic was bookended by appropriately high drama, from what appeared to be a disastrous collision with Reymond Fuentes at first base on the first at-bat of the game to striking out the side in the ninth.
Even as the ever-jovial Volquez absorbed a few pies to the face in the immediate aftermath and joked (we think) that he had thought his ankle was broken on the first play of the game, he remained conscious of the poignant implications of what he’d done.
He had dedicated the game to Ventura, who died in a car accident in the Dominican on Jan. 22, and Jose Fernandez, the Marlins pitcher who died in a boating accident last September.
Then he noted Ventura’s birthday and said, “They’re watching right now … and they might feel really happy right now.”
Of Ventura, he added, “He was one of my best friends … I’m pretty sure he’s in the right place right now, enjoying this moment.”
Maybe this is what you could think of as Forever Royal.
If it seems superhuman for anyone to be able to summon something like this on such a cue, it also should be no real surprise that it was within the emotional grasp and repertoire of Volquez (who also is one of the most engaging and enjoyable athletes you’ll ever meet).
He demonstrated a remarkable resolve, if not a downright mystical presence, during the 2015 World Series.
On the eve of starting Game 1 against the New York Mets, Volquez spoke on the phone with his father, Danio.
First, they talked about his father’s health after his most recent examination for ongoing issues with heart disease.
Then, they spoke of baseball, a bond between the son and mechanic father who had bought him his first baseball glove and spikes and videotaped all of Pedro Martinez’s starts to further encourage the son’s interest in emulating the star Dominican pitcher.
“We’re finally here,” Volquez told his thrilled father.
Fewer than 24 hours later, before Volquez started against the Mets at Kauffman Stadium, Danio Volquez died after a heart attack.
The piercing development took on a surreal element since the Royals honored the request of Volquez’s wife, Roandry, not to tell him before he pitched … even as any of the 14.9 million people watching on television might have known.
Fox withheld the information on its broadcast, but because it was widely reported otherwise, many in the crowd of 40,320 and several teammates knew before Volquez was told after his six-inning stint in what would become a 5-4 Royals victory.
Volquez would later say he was grateful not to have been told, because he doubted he could have performed if he had known.
His immediate heartbreak proved to be the prelude to one of the most touching — and ultimately uplifting — stories in World Series history.
At his father’s funeral in the Dominican, Volquez told The Associated Press he didn’t know if he’d be ready to pitch by Game 5 in New York.
By that evening, though, his mother, Ana, told him his father “wants you to pitch.”
And so he did, with his father’s initials discreetly etched inside his cap.
“That was my idea: You keep everything inside,” he said in a 2016 interview. “I don’t have to show my teammates I was really sad, or whatever, because I don’t want to pass the pain to my teammates. …
“I think I did a pretty good job keeping inside all my pains.”
With a little help, as it happened.
Standing near the Citi Field mound late that night after the Royals won 7-2 to clinch the series, Volquez said he had been buoyed by “a lot of energy coming from the dirt, from the grass, all the way to your head.”
Months later, he elaborated on the sensation.
“He was behind me, just telling me, ‘Stay there, stay strong, be strong, focus on what you want to do,’ ” he said. “He kind of showed me the road. …
“You feel, like, a lot of energy. Something crazy. I can’t explain.”
As Volquez stood there that night, Mike Moustakas, whose mother had died only weeks before, approached with the Commissioner’s Trophy.
Moustakas whispered to him, “I really love you, and we made our parents really proud and excited right now.”
Volquez told Moustakas he loved him too, and then he beamed as he cradled the trophy.
“Unbelievable,” Volquez said then. “Look at that.”
You could say the same on Saturday, when Volquez again exceeded what anyone could have scripted and pushed the bounds of human potential — this time by channeling the spirit of Ventura (and Fernandez) to honor him in nothing less than spine-tingling fashion.