Yordano Ventura grew up in the Dominican Republic idolizing former Boston Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez.
On Sunday, following the death of the Royals pitcher, Martinez and people throughout the Caribbean island took to social media to mourn the loss of one of Kansas City’s rising stars.
“Another one of mine, another one of our own, another one of baseball’s,” Martinez tweeted in Spanish. “So little to say, so much pain to process. Rest in peace, son, you have broken our hearts.”
Ventura had been in his home country during the offseason, working out at the Royals complex just northeast of the capital of Santo Domingo. Even as a protest calling for government transparency overran the capital, news of the 25-year-old’s passing spread quickly across the nation Sunday, the morning after a national holiday celebrating Dia de la Virgen de la Altagracia.
Jacobo Mateo Moquete, a public information officer for the Dominican National Police, tweeted a graphic image of what was presumed to be the player’s corpse lying outside a white vehicle Sunday morning. He made no mention of what caused the fatal crash, just that the death was “lamentable.”
Though Moquete’s decision to publish the image was met with outrage in the Dominican and beyond, the photo also prompted a slew of reactions to the loss of another young Latin American athlete in a car wreck.
St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras was killed in a high-speed car crash in 2014 in the Dominican, and in late September, Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, a native of Cuba, was killed in a boat wreck just outside of South Beach. A toxicology report found that Fernandez was legally drunk and had cocaine in his system, the Miami Herald reported. A toxicology report in Taveras’ case found that his blood alcohol content level was five times the legal limit in the Dominican Republic.
The investigation into what caused Ventura’s wreck will take weeks, but the Dominican Republic consistently ranks among the deadliest countries for motor-vehicle crashes in data compiled by the World Health Organization, The Washington Post reported Sunday.
“It’s time to educate these players. You only live one life. (Exercise) caution,” said Twitter user Junior Jimenez.
As Ventura’s story unfolded, people in the Dominican Republic and in baseball had already turned their eyes to Andy Marte, a former major-leaguer who also died in a car crash overnight Saturday.
Danilo Medina, president of the Dominican Republic, painted a picture of nationwide mourning with this statement on Twitter: “Today the Dominican Republic is in mourning over the deaths of Andy Marte and Yordano Ventura, great athletes who put our flag above all. It’s a sad day for sports and the international baseball community. My most sincere condolences for their families and friends. May they rest in peace.”
Marte had been on the roster for the Dominican Professional Baseball League’s Aguilas Cibaeñas, who were playing the Tigres de Licey for the league title. Former Cleveland Indians manager Manny Acta, who has managed the Aguilas this winter, paid tribute to his fallen player and Ventura.
The Aguilas and Tigres went forward with the fourth game of the series, a move which fellow Dominican big-leaguer Albert Pujols criticized.
“I’m devastated by the news of Andy and Yordano’s deaths,” the Los Angeles Angels first baseman told ESPNDeportes.com. “But I cannot comprehend why the Dominican League did not cancel its game today to let us mourn adequately. Playing on a day like today is insensitive and it’s disrespectful to all players.”
The teams honored Ventura and Marte before first pitch.
Meanwhile, relatives, friends and colleagues honored Ventura with social media posts of their own.
Translation: “Man, you left us at your best. Sometimes I ask myself why bother if this is what we get.”
Translation: “Oh boy, now also Yordano Ventura. Today will be remembered as a tragic day in the history of Dominican baseball and in the big leagues. My God, a boy with so much talent who was so young and had a great career ahead of him. May he rest in peace and harmony to his family.”