Royals

Salvador Perez eulogizes Yordano Ventura from pitcher’s mound where he learned the game

Yordano Ventura’s casket was taken to the baseball field where he played as a boy.
Yordano Ventura’s casket was taken to the baseball field where he played as a boy. jsleezer@kcstar.com

Two years ago this month, Yordano Ventura stood on the field at Estadio Municipal as a beacon of hope.

On the field where he learned the game of baseball and was first seen by a Royals scout, youngsters either flocked around or stood back in awe of the rising major-league star who had won Game 6 of the 2014 World Series as he honored Oscar Taveras — the friend and countryman who had died days before in a car crash.

Many cried as they watched the game in the nearby town square that night, emotions of both anguish over the death of Taveras and pride in Ventura, the native son who offered hope.

And now … this. A memorial service for Ventura on the same field Tuesday.

Under a sunny sky, a marching band played a somber tune. A Dominican Republic flag and a Royals jersey were spread over the casket of Ventura, who died in a car crash early Sunday.

As loved ones crowded onto the field, cries of anguish rang out. Pallbearers, among them some current and former Royals teammates, set the 25-year-old’s remains just over the pitcher’s mound. Many children also attended, wearing baseball jerseys with “Ventura” on the back.

Statements were made on behalf of the town of Las Terrenas, as well as by the pastor at the church Ventura attended growing up. Attendees took a couple of minutes to sing the national anthem of the Dominican Republic, “Quisqueyanos Valientes,” which means Brave Dominicans in English.

The group of family members and friends, which included the Royals’ Eric Hosmer, Alcides Escobar and Mike Moustakas, as well as former Royals Greg Holland, Jarrod Dyson and Chris Getz, sang. A prayer was said.

Then, Salvador Perez spoke on behalf of the Royals. He battled sobs from an unsettled crowd as he spoke deliberately and in a subdued tone.

“He wasn’t just a teammate or a friend,” Perez said. “He was a brother. 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.”

Then Perez paused briefly to turn away from a television station’s microphone and toward Ventura’s mother, Marisol, who was wracked with grief.

Mi doña, stay strong for your family,” he said. “You have our support. And we will never forget what you told us at your home: ‘After God, family.’

“I regret the loss of our brother Ventura. Only God knows why he does these things. “I love you. And on behalf of the Kansas City Royals, I wish for all of you strength.”

After the service, former Royals pitchers Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez were among the players who got up on the pickup truck that drove out with Ventura’s casket, headed to the town cemetery for interment.

In 2015, Cueto, Volquez and Ventura formed the first World Series starting rotation with three Dominican pitchers.

The funeral procession started Tuesday morning with a visitation in a Las Terrenas home owned by Ventura. Ventura’s family and Royals players and other team personnel, including manager Ned Yost and general manager Dayton Moore, paid their respects during a quiet session that included the opening of the casket for a brief time.

The ceremony on the field followed.

The Star’s Pete Grathoff contributed to this report

Vahe Gregorian: 816-234-4868, @vgregorian

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