A car accident in the Dominican Republic recently killed 25-year-old star pitcher Yordano Ventura of the Kansas City Royals — just hours after an unrelated accident in the same country claimed the life of a former major leaguer.
Ventura, 25, was killed on a highway leading to the town of Juan Adrian, about 40 miles northwest of Santo Domingo. Authorities said it wasn’t clear if the Dominican Republic native was driving, but that speeding may have been a factor.
The nation was doubly shocked by the death of 33-year-old Andy Marte, a one-time top prospect and former third baseman for the Indians, Braves, and Diamondbacks.
The Dominican-born Marte was killed when the Mercedes-Benz he was driving hit a house about 95 miles north of the capital, according to authorities.
Dominican President Danilo Medina, in a tweet, said the nation “is dressed in mourning with the deaths of (these) great sportsmen who raised high our national banner.”
In a conference call, Royals general manager Dayton Moore said “everybody in our organization is hurting right now” over the loss of Ventura, a budding star who played in two World Series, including the Royals’ 2015 victory over the Mets.
“We were truly blessed to have been a part of his life,” Moore said. “He will always be a special part of our organization.”
Ventura, a righthanded flamethrower with a 100-mph fastball and a fiery temper, played his entire four-year Major League Baseball career in Kansas City after signing with the team as an amateur free agent in 2008.
He went 13-8 in 2015, when the Royals won their first championship in 30 years and was 11-12 in 2016.
Ventura blossomed as a starter in his rookie year of 2014. His 14-10 record and 3.20 ERA earned him a five-year, $24 million contract he signed before the 2015 season.
The most memorable moment of Ventura’s career came in Game 6 of the 2014 World Series against the San Francisco Giants. The pitcher took the mound and dedicated his outing to his late friend and fellow Dominican, Oscar Taveras, the Cardinals outfielder who died in a car accident two days before the game.
Ventura, who had the words “R.I.P. OT #18” written on the front of his hat, tossed seven shutout innings of three-hit ball in the 10-0 win.
The Royals lost Game 7 but stormed back to the Fall Classic the following year and beat the Mets in five exciting games. Ventura struggled in his one 2015 World Series start, picking up the loss in Game 3 at Citi Field.
Ventura is the second promising young starter to die in the last six months after 24-year-old Marlins ace Jose Fernandez was killed in September in a boating accident. Ventura also honored Fernandez during a game, adding “R.I.P. JF #16” on his cap next to his tribute for Taveras.
For his career, Ventura recorded a solid 38-31 record with a 3.89 ERA in 94 regular-season games, but he will also be remembered as a fierce competitor.
Never shy about throwing inside to batters, Ventura was involved in several on-field confrontations that resulted in bench-clearing incidents, including altercations with such stars as the Angels’ Mike Trout and Orioles third baseman Manny Machado.
Marte, who was signed by the Atlanta Braves as an amateur free agent in 2000, played parts of seven seasons at the hot corner and first base in the majors, hitting 21 home runs with 99 RBIs and a .218 average over 308 games.
He was playing winter league baseball in the Dominican Republic for Las Aguilas Cibaenas, according to Baseball America.
By coincidence, Marte had his final major league at-bat against the Royals in a game Ventura started on Aug. 6, 2014, in Arizona, according to mlb.com.