Who was Yordano Ventura?
Yordano Ventura was a Dominican professional baseball pitcher who played in the Major League Baseball for the American team Kansas City Royals. He was scouted through the Royals' Dominican Republic Academy as a power pitcher for his ability to throw fastball at up to a speed of 102 mph. He trained under the academy for one-and-a-half years before debuting in the minor league for the Kane County Cougars, and later played for the Wilmington Blue Rocks and the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. He quickly made it to the Omaha Storm Chasers of the Class AAA Pacific Coast League, and after helping the team win the PCL championship, was promoted to the major league in September 2013. He was instrumental in the Royals' win in the 2015 World Series. However, his career was cut short due to his untimely death in a car crash on January 22, 2017, following which his teammates honored him by wearing 'ACE 30' patches throughout the next season.
Childhood & Early Life
Yordano Ventura Hernández was born on June 3, 1991, in Samaná, Dominican Republic, and was raised by his mother, Marisol Hernández, and grandfather, Raúl Hernández.
He felt mistreated in school and dropped out at the age of 14, following which he began working in construction to support his divorced mother as his father had moved to Germany.
An athletic teen who loved swimming in the ocean and playing basketball, 17-year-old Ventura was invited to Kansas City Royals' Dominican Republic Academy by then-scout and administrator Pedro Silverio in 2008. He had caught his attention particularly because of his ability to pitch a fastball consistently near 100 mph, much above the traditional '20-80' rating system of prospects.
After the Royals’ officials watched him pitch at the academy, he was quickly signed as a non-drafted international free agent for $28,000. However, he had to spend the next 18 months at the team's academy to correct some issues regarding his delivery.
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Minor League Career
Yordano Ventura made his minor league debut for the Kane County Cougars of the Class A Midwest League on May 15, 2011, but had to be strictly monitored for overthrowing. He started 19 games for the team throughout the season, and recorded a 4-6 win-loss ratio with a 4.27 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 84.1 innings pitched.
He had a breakout season in 2012 playing with the Wilmington Blue Rocks of the Class A-Advanced Carolina League and was selected to both the California League All-Star Game and the All-Star Futures Game. His performance earned him promotion to the Northwest Arkansas Naturals of the Class AA Texas League in that summer.
He was the 4th-best prospect for the Royals for the 2013 season and was invited to the spring training of the team before starting the season with Northwest Arkansas. In June, he was promoted to the Omaha Storm Chasers of the Class AAA Pacific Coast League and registered 5-4 with a 3.74 ERA during the regular season.
In 2013, he was named to the World Team for the Sirius XM All-Star Futures Game for the second consecutive time and drew attention by firing a perfect seventh inning. That season, he shared the Royals’ 'co-Minor League Player of the Year' honor with pitcher Lane Adams.
Major League Career
After the Omaha Storm Chasers won the PCL championship, Yordano Ventura was promoted to the major league and made his debut with the Kansas City Royals on September 17, 2013. He replaced injured Danny Duffy against the Cleveland Indians, and eventually made three starts for the Royals with a 3.52 ERA.
He outclassed Duffy with four outstanding performances and won the final spot in the Royals' starting rotation during the 2014 spring training. He finished the regular season with14–10 and a 3.20 ERA, and started the second game of the 2014 ALDS for the Royals in a 4–1 win over the Los Angeles Angels.
In the World Series against the San Francisco Giants, he helped the Royals register a 10–0 win throwing seven shutout innings during Game 6, equaling the series and forcing a seventh game. Prior to the 2015 season, he signed a five-year contract with the Royals for $23 million and was named their 2015 Opening Day starting pitcher.
He pitched six innings in the Royals' 10–1 win against the Chicago White Sox on April 6, 2015, before leaving with a right thumb cramp. That month, within a period of two weeks, he became involved in three bench-clearing incidents in three consecutive starts amidst sub-par performances, prompting the Royals to consider trading him off.
On April 12, 2015, he confronted Mike Trout of the Angels after he scored, and on April 18, he was ejected and fined after intentionally hitting Brett Lawrie of the Oakland Athletics with a pitch. After he instigated another such incident following his verbal exchange with White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton, he and four other players were ejected, and he was subsequently suspended for seven games.
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With a 5.19 ERA, he was all set to be transferred to Omaha in July, but his replacement, Jason Vargas, injured his elbow and he was called back soon after. He went on to record 13–8 with a 4.08 ERA and 156 strikeouts during the regular season, and registered top average fastball velocity of 96.4 miles among the pitchers.
He helped the Royals in their 3–2 win over Houston Astros in the American League Division Series and in their 4–2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League Championship Series. They advanced to the 2015 World Series, where they beat the National League champion New York Mets by 4–1.
In the next season, he became involved in another bench-clearing incident after throwing several pitches inside to Manny Machado, including one hitting him at 99 mph. He was suspended for nine games, later reduced to eight, which ended his 2016 season at an 11–12 win-loss record and a 4.45 ERA.
Family & Personal Life
Yordano Ventura first talked to Maria del Pilar Sangiovanni on Instagram in August 2015 and married her soon on January 28, 2016, in his home in Las Terrenas. His family did not attend the ceremony as they did not trust Sangiovanni, who was already married but claimed her previous marriage to be a business arrangement.
Days after the wedding, a then-pregnant Sangiovanni reportedly miscarried her twins conceived with Ventura, who already had a 3-year-old daughter from a previous relationship.
In the following months, he had arguments with his wife and was allegedly threatened by his father-in-law. He was later hospitalized in Arizona for medicine overdose, which Sangiovanni described as a suicide attempt.
On January 22, 2017, while trying to reconnect with his estranged wife, 25-year-old Ventura died after his Jeep Wrangler crashed while driving at night through a treacherous highway to Juan Adrián in the Dominican Republic.
According to 'The Kansas City Star', an amount of $20.25 million outstanding on his Royals contract, subject to an official toxicology report, remained unpaid even two years after his death.
Yordano Ventura, who also played in his home country with the Águilas Cibaeñas, died the same day his teammate and Major League player Andy Marte was killed in a separate car crash.