Early in the morning of January 22nd, Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura and former MLB infielder Andy Marte died as a result of separate car accidents in the Dominican Republic. Ventura was 25 years old. Marte was 33.
Ventura was a top prospect for the Royals organization, making the All-Star Futures Game twice, before being called up to the majors in September of 2013. Thanks to his 100 mile per hour fastball, Ventura went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA in his first full season as a major leaguer. Perhaps one of the biggest highlights of his pitching career occurred in Game 6 of the 2014 World Series. Before the game, Ventura said he would be dedicating his performance to friend and fellow countryman Oscar Tavaras, a top prospect for the Cardinals who spent time with them in 2014, who died in a car accident in the Dominican Republic shortly after the Cardinals were eliminated from the playoffs. Ventura stepped to the mound hours after Tavaras’ funeral, with a handwritten message on his cap saying “RIP O.T. #18,” in honor of Tavaras. Ventura would end up going 7 shutout innings, helping the Royals force a Game 7. Ventura was rewarded for his solid 2014 season when the Royals signed him to a 5-year, $25 million deal. In 2015, Ventura went 13-8, with a 4.08 ERA and 156 strikeouts. While he was the only losing pitcher for the Royals in the 2015 World Series, he still contributed immensely to aid the Royals in winning the 2015 World Series. Ventura finished his 3-year career with a 38-31 record, with a 3.89 ERA and 470 strikeouts.
Andy Marte spent parts of 2005 with the Atlanta Braves, before being traded to the Red Sox, and then again to the Cleveland Indians prior to the 2006 season. Marte would play parts of the next five seasons between the Indians and the AAA Columbus Clippers. Marte played in the minors between 2011 and 2013. The last time Marte played in the majors was in 2014 with the Diamondbacks. Marte spent 2015 and 2016 with the KT Wiz of the Korean League. In his MLB career, Marte hit .218 with 21 homers and 99 runs batted in.
These tragedies come just 4 months after the death of Marlins stud pitcher Jose Fernandez in a boating accident. My condolences are with the friends and family of Ventura and Marte. Their presences on the field as well as off the field will sorely be missed.