It has been 78 days since the tragic death of former Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura, but perhaps the most poignant tribute, remembrance and celebration of life for the Dominican Republic Ace came at the Royals home opener Monday.
First baseman Eric Hosmer joined the Royals organization in 2008, the same year Ventura signed with Kansas City as an international free agent.
Nine years later, the long-time teammate spoke with tears in his eyes on behalf of the entire Royals organization in front of a sold-out Kauffman Stadium crowd.
“On behalf of Dayton (Moore), Ned (Yost), Salvy (Perez) and the whole organization, we can’t thank you guys enough for the love and support that you guys have all had for us and Yordano’s family. Together, as an organization, we’ve all had the opportunity to celebrate the life of Yordano and mourn the life of Yordano as well. But what we haven’t had the opportunity to do, was celebrate his life with the other side of our family and that’s you guys our fans. So we thank you, and I can assure you that there was no place that felt more like home than on that mound in front of all you guys, for Yordano.”
After Hosmer’s message, Leavenworth native Melissa Etheridge sang the National Anthem with a B-2 Stealth Bomber flyover from Whiteman Air Force Base.
Royals players carried a black “ACE 30” banner out behind the mound during the ceremony, to match the patch on each player’s right jersey sleeve.
There are also various banners, murals and tribute’s scattered throughout the Kauffman Stadium grounds from the dugout to the Royals Hall of Fame.
Mother of Yordano Ventura, Marisol Hernández, threw out the ceremonial first pitch after writing "Dios" (God in Spanish) on the pitching mound.
Royals players also gave individual tribute’s during the pregame ceremony.
“He’s someone that I looked up to,” Left fielder Alex Gordon said. “Maybe he didn’t know that, but I did.”
“He was more than just a teammate to all of us, he was, you know, family,” Third Baseman Moose Moustakas said.
“We lost a teammate, we lost a friend, we lost a brother,” Catcher Salvador Perez said.
Yost also addressed the difficulties of separating the emotions of the tribute and still playing a baseball game.
“I don’t think you can ever disassociate yourself from that or make yourself numb to that because he was such a big part of us, and he was still very much a part of who we are,” Yost said. “It’s still heartbreaking to a lot of guys in there. It just takes time, and it’s the only thing that is going to heal things is time.”
Hosmer and the rest of the Royals players had to wipe the tears away and get into a baseball mindset minutes later, as Kansas City looks to win its fifth straight home opener.
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