Editorial: In Kansas City, Yordano Ventura will be remembered as ‘Forever Royal’

The tragic death of Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura is the latest tragedy in a city that has seen too many sports heroes die young.
The tragic death of Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura is the latest tragedy in a city that has seen too many sports heroes die young. jsleezer@kcstar.com

We have been here before, of course, in this place of shock and misery over another unspeakable tragedy involving one of our sports heroes.

In 2012, it was linebacker Jovan Belcher shooting his girlfriend to death and then committing suicide at Arrowhead Stadium.

In 1983, it was Chiefs running back Joe Delaney drowning in a Louisiana pond attempting to save children he didn’t even know.

And in 2000, the one-vehicle accident on ice-covered Interstate 435 that led to the death of Chiefs icon Derrick Thomas roiled this community as few deaths have.

Those tragedies, sadly, do nothing to mitigate the loss of Yordano Ventura, the pitching phenom who will be laid to rest Tuesday in a remote fishing village in the Dominican Republic following a deadly car crash. There, his Royals teammates and coaches will gather to remember a life that was an essential part of the team’s recent run of success.

Make no mistake: The Royals who come together in Ventura’s hometown of Las Terrenas, where he continued to work out on the beach and in the ocean, will be joined in spirit by legions of fans whose grief endures. They will never forget the pitcher with unlimited potential. That he is gone at 25 — and nothing can be done to change that — only makes the pain that much more profound.

Kansas City and the entire Royals nation send heartfelt condolences to Ventura’s family. We will long remember what he brought to our city.

Ventura was once, and always, a Royal. He was the 16-year-old kid who signed with the team for a mere $28,000 and grew into the young man who would help lead the Royals to back-to-back World Series in 2014 and 2015.

His three-hit performance in a must-win Game 6 in the 2014 Series will remain part of Royals lore. So will the trademark flourish of his throwing arm rising skyward after a particularly devastating pitch. “Take that,” he seemed to be saying.

In our collective memories, he will always be the impossibly skinny kid who possessed the uncanny ability to propel a baseball at 100 mph — or still faster.

At his best, Ventura was exhilarating, a flamethrower so many baseball executives compared to the great Pedro Martinez. He had that kind of potential, they said. A season with a sub-2.00 ERA, just like Martinez once achieved, seemed within reach.

At his not-so-best, he was the still-maturing ace-in-the-making known for inducing bench-clearing brawls with his trash-talking bravado.

That behavior mystified even the most die-hard fans. But we rolled with it, knowing that Ventura was a work-in-progress, and maybe that endeared him to us all the more. His teammates, for sure, appreciated his fierce devotion to proving himself worthy of the faith the Royals had invested.

Tragedies like this once again remind that Major League Baseball has lost too many of its young talents. On Sunday, Andy Marte, a former major leaguer, died in a separate car accident in the Dominican Republic. And Ventura, after all, had honored his buddy Oscar Taveras, a St. Louis Cardinals outfielder, on the night of his 2014 World Series masterpiece with an inscription on his cap. Taveras had died just days earlier in another Dominican car crash.

Today, though, is a day for remembering, for honoring and for appreciating a young man who brought so much joy and wonder to Kansas City. Rest in peace, Yordano Ventura, a Royal today, tomorrow and forevermore.