Word came to the Royals on Tuesday afternoon that scheduled World Series Game 1 starter Edinson Volquez’s father, Daniel, had died at 63 from complications of heart disease.
But it was attached to a request by the family.
“ ‘Don’t tell Eddie; let him go out and pitch Game 1 of the World Series,’ ” was how it came to Royals manager Ned Yost.
It was a sad and awkward situation, but Yost was intent on honoring the family’s wishes even as he worried word might get to Volquez.
And even as he watched Volquez pitch six innings of stalwart baseball that enabled the Royals to stay in a berserk game they’d eventually win 5-4 in 14 innings, Yost kept anguishing over what was coming next.
“The news (to Volquez) is coming next,” Yost kept thinking. “It kind of put a damper on things for us.”
Jarring as it was in itself, the impact surely was compounded by it being part of a mournful recent trend for the Royals, three of whom now (including third baseman Mike Moustakas and parent Chris Young) have suffered the loss of a parent in recent weeks.
Amid all the emotions about their sense of loss for another brother, first baseman Eric Hosmer said, “But it’s just another angel above, just watching us and behind us through this whole run.”
It’s been an uncanny misery, though, a time unlike anything Yost can ever recall.
Moustakas’ mother, Connie, died on Aug. 9, her son staying with the team on what he considered her wishes.
“It’s something (Volquez’s father’s death) you don’t want to hear,” said Moustakas, adding, “For all the stuff that’s happened this year, to all of our parents … it has to bring you closer together.”
Young’s father, Charles, died on Sept. 26, a day before he insisted on pitching to honor his father and channeled five innings of no-hit baseball before leaving to join his family.
Words, he said, can’t describe the pain he felt for Volquez.
On this night, as it happened, Moustakas and Young were among those who took the baton from Volquez.
Young, whose sturdy start helped the Royals win Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, pitched three innings of scoreless relief to get the win.
The sanctuary of play, Young said, “for a brief period of time” can take your mind off that loss.
In his case Tuesday, though, he also took comfort in feeling his father’s presence with him.
Hopeful Volquez had enjoyed the same connection with his own father, Young said he’d hear his father’s voice saying “concentrate, focus on what you need to do to help the club win. He’s with me constantly.”
Volquez also received what might be seen as a poignant boost from Moustakas, who in the sixth inning dived to backhand a two-out smash off the bat of Wilmer Flores with a runner on second base.
Moustakas snapped to his feet and fired a strike to Hosmer to snuff out the rally and leave Volquez with the stuff of what is known as a “quality start” — three runs in six innings.
But it also was so much more on a night that would end with Volquez being told what had happened by his family in the Royals’ clubhouse soon after he finished pitching.
Yost had felt some temptation to tell him to contact his wife when he removed him in the dugout after the sixth, but he was concerned that would violate the family’s wishes to tell Volquez themselves.
The news had been imparted by the time Danny Duffy came into the clubhouse after his own stint in the seventh.
He approached Volquez and said, “Great job.”
Then he saw how downcast Volquez was and heard what Duffy called “the terrible, terrible news.”
Duffy hugged him and told him he’d do anything he can for him.
“He's going to be missed for the next couple of days,” he said. “Whenever he decides to come back, we'll be here waiting for him with open arms.”
No information has been released about funeral plans for Daniel Volquez, whom Volquez called “Danio” during an interview with The Star in the summer.
Volquez’s path here from the Dominican Republic began with his father, a mechanic, buying him his first glove, the model of countryman Pedro Martinez — a poster of whom became the first thing Volquez saw every day when he woke up in his room.
Soon, Volquez’s father would tape every Martinez outing he could for his son to watch on their black-and-white television, helping him try to emulate Martinez down to every twitch.
And his father was on the phone with him when Volquez was away from his home in Santo Domingo negotiating his first signing bonus for $27,000 with the Texas Rangers.
In some way or another, then, Volquez’s father also was with him on the mound Tuesday even if by all indications Volquez was unaware of his death while he pitched.
That piercing news would become part of the fascinating tapestry of a game that at 14 innings matched the longest in World Series history — on a night when there were initial concerns it would be rained out.
“This game will show you something new every time you take the ball,” said Duffy, who hadn’t even known about the Fox Sports power outage that delayed the game.
It opened with the Royals’ Alcides Escobar’s inside-the-park home run — with the help of some slapdash glovesmanship by Yoenis Cespedes — on the first pitch from the Met’s Matt Harvey.
That was the first such dash in a World Series game since Mule Haas did it for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1929.
It became a marathon because Alex Gordon yanked Gold Glover Hosmer off the hook for Hosmer’s rare error that allowed the Mets to take a 4-3 lead in the eighth.
Gordon’s home run in the ninth inning was the first game-tying or go-ahead homer at least that late in Game 1 of a World Series since the iconic one by the Dodger’s Kirk Gibson off Oakland’s Dennis Eckersley in 1988.
It became about redemption when Hosmer stood and watched his fly ball to right that he knew would drive in Escobar from third with the game-winning run in the 14th, a play punctuated by Hosmer flipping his bat.
But Volquez will always have a special signature on a night he’ll surely remember like no other, and maybe teammate Jeremy Guthrie put this best.
Though Yost had told Young to get in the mindset to make an emergency start if Volquez learned the news, the news was not widely known on the team before the game.
Guthrie, who is not on the 25-man World Series roster, read about it on Twitter before the game and had the understanding that Volquez knew.
Framed by that information, he believed he saw a “heavy-hearted” Volquez pitching.
If he didn’t know, Guthrie said, he felt bad that he must have invented that sentiment himself.
But was it really so invented?
There still would seem to be something bigger than all of us and indefinable in all this, regardless of when Volquez knew.
In his first World Series appearance, he exuded the poised intensity to be what he has been all season for the Royals: the most stable starter among a group of more-celebrated, higher-ceilinged but far more fickle sorts.
With many watching knowing of the death of his father through social media, Volquez retired the first eight New York batters he faced and didn’t give up a hit until the fourth inning, when the Mets created a run with three base hits.
They’d add another in the fifth on Curtis Granderson’s home run and another in the sixth before Moustakas’ play snuffed out any more trouble.
Volquez left trailing 3-1, but the Royals tied it in the bottom of the sixth on RBIs by Hosmer and Moustakas.
His night was long over by the time the game was decided on Hosmer’s sacrifice fly in the 14th, of course, but his impact on the game was indelible — just like his father’s was on him.