The Royals’ bus embarked before 7 a.m. local time Tuesday from Santo Domingo to Las Terrenas to services for Yordano Ventura, who died early Sunday in a car crash.
Kansas City Star sports columnist Vahe Gregorian and photojournalist John Sleezer were with the Royals all day. We aggregated their updates here, as time and Internet connections permitted while respecting moments of innermost privacy for the family.
Here is a rundown of the whole day from Gregorian, with all times Atlantic Standard, two hours ahead of Kansas City time:
2:31 p.m.: Back on bus now, will soon try to start making sense of all this. Thanks to all who have followed along today.
One last footnote for now: As I just chatted with Dayton Moore, he thanked John Sleezer and me for being here. This is a point about him, not us. Moore said it was important for Kansas City and Ventura’s legacy that we try to chronicle this day.
Along those lines, Eric Hosmer also made a point of thanking The Star for being here.
2:29 p.m.: Yordano Ventura has been interred at the cemetery and the Royals are headed back to Santo Domingo on the bus. Many in the Royals’ traveling party fly out tonight.
The cemetery was wall-to-wall people, and even some in the Royals’ entourage were unable to make it inside.
2:03 p.m.: The procession has reached the cemetery where Ventura will be buried.
1 p.m.: Traffic so thick now that it appears the rest of the Royals’ entourage will walk the mile-plus to cemetery. It seems to be at least 90 degrees here.
There is a striking beauty to seeing Royals officials walking as one with Dominicans to cemetery.
12:46 p.m.: Former Royals pitchers Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez are among those on back of truck with Ventura’s casket as it leaves the stadium. Ventura, Cueto and Volquez, in 2015, were part of the first World Series starting rotation that featured three Dominicans.
12:36 p.m.: Ventura family expresses gratitude to Royals, who in many ways helped raise Ventura after signing him in 2008.
12:25 p.m.: The procession stops at the ball field where Ventura played as a child. A flag is draped over Ventura’s casket as attendees sing mournfully together during a ceremony.
Sal Perez spoke to the mourners about “mi hermano,” from the pitcher’s mound where Ventura learned to play.
“He wasn’t just a teammate or a friend. He was a brother,” Perez said. “We’ve known him since he started playing for Kansas City.
“His moments aside, he had a big heart. It’s incredibly sad what we’re going through right now.”
Perez also addressed Ventura’s mother, Marisol, telling her: “Mi doña, stay strong for your family. You have our support. … Only God knows why he does these things.”
Elsa de Leon, who spoke on behalf of Las Terrenas, said: “To everyone here, it’s difficult to accept that someone so young and with so much talent and so many dreams and goals wasn’t able to reach his potential. …
“Saying goodbye to Yordano is hard. But it fell to me to choose that casket, and that was even more heartbreaking.”
11:58 a.m.: Earlier, at private visitation inside Ventura’s home, Sal Perez and Alcides Escobar stood at base of Ventura’s casket for a few minutes, just staring. Casket was opened for a period. Perez rubbed it when closed.
Perez, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas hugged Ventura’s mother, Marisol, and aunt, Rebecca.
David Ortiz was there, greeting all who arrived.
Dayton Moore took hands of those around him and lovingly shared conciliatory words. More on that later today.
After the visitation, the Royals left with the funeral procession to Estadio Municipal, Ventura’s first baseball field.
Many, including Moore, apparently walked the mile or two behind the truck carrying Ventura’s casket.
11:49 a.m.: It is customary here, particularly in rural areas, for visitation to be held at a family home. Ventura’s mother wanted to hold it at her home, but the turnout was too big and it was held at Ventura’s home.
11:23 a.m.: The funeral procession has started. Former Red Sox slugger and Dominican native David Ortiz is in attendance.
Among the pallbearers, riding on top of a truck with Ventura’s casket, are Royals players Alcides Escobar, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and Sal Perez. They are going to the field where Ventura learned to play baseball for a short ceremony, then on to the burial site.
11:15 a.m.: Just got out of very emotional private visitation with Royals teammates, Ned Yost, Dayton Moore and others in Royals group. Now headed to funeral procession.
9:33 a.m.: Just passed La Bomba Sports Bar, near where Star photojournalist David Eulitt, Francisco and I met up with Ventura two years ago to interview him for this project, Becoming Yordano. Also here is Estadio Municipal, where Ventura learned to play baseball.
9:20 a.m.: Light footnote: Moustakas has probably gotten out of his seat eight times to get food from the middle of bus. Each time he was getting it for someone else. Another nice reprieve now: It’s very low-key but players telling some stories, bantering, laughing a little.
9:11 a.m.: Just stopped at rest area in gorgeous countryside where livestock roamed around us. Believe Red Bull was most purchased item.
8:56 a.m.: In casual chat with Moustakas, he said he had only been to Dominican once before. He spent 10 days here in 2009 or 2010 because Moore wanted American players to have an appreciation of where Dominicans come from. Moustakas was very struck by that trip, appreciative of all he has been given and all the struggles (often poverty) prospects here face.
8:49 a.m.: Had seen former Royals relief pitcher Greg Holland last night but not this morning … until now, asleep across aisle seats. I initially stopped when I got to him, but Mike Moustakas says “just go over him.” Told Moustakas I’m not athlete he is, but he urged me on.
These guys probably have made hundreds of bus rides together, though none like this one of course. Moustakas smiled at thought of all the rides, getting around with guys sprawled everywhere, bags in aisles, etc.
7:36 a.m.: A sad footnote: a Royals scout had seen Ventura a few days before his death and had urged him to go to Arizona right away to train.
Royals are grateful to Ventura family for delaying services to Tuesday. Often burials here are next day.
7:29 a.m.: Yost, Grifol, Perez and surely others are still processing that Ventura has died. But Yost knows “reality will hit today.” He is reminded of the death of dear friend Dale Earnhardt and remembers shock prevailed until a time that they would normally be gathering together.
That thought makes Yost think of and feel for Victor Baez, the Royals’ Dominican director. Baez was a father figure to Ventura, starting with the 18 months they worked together at the Royals’ academy. Baez and Ventura had been working out four to five days a week this winter in the Dominican, and Monday was first regularly scheduled workout they missed together.
7:17 a.m.: Royals are aware of (unconfirmed) report that Ventura was robbed at crash scene, as I spoke with Moore he glanced at the story on his cell phone. It’s known by the Royals that Ventura’s mother, Marisol, seeks an investigation. It’s also believed Ventura’s 2015 World Series ring was not found at the site.
7:09 a.m.: Among those on board: Team president Dan Glass, general manager Dayton Moore, manager Ned Yost, assistant GM Rene Francisco, coach Pedro Grifol. Among players: Sal Perez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar and Jarrod Dyson.