Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura killed in car crash

KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals reacts after getting out of the third inning against the San Francisco Giants during Game Six of the 2014 World Series at Kauffman Stadium on October 28, 2014 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car crash Sunday in the Dominican Republic. He was 25.

Royals GM Dayton Moore expressed in his condolences in an official statement released by the organization.

Ventura’s death comes on the same day former Indians infielder Andy Marte was killed in a car crash in the Dominican. The accidents are unrelated.

“We are deeply saddened to learn of the tragic passing of Andy Marte and Yordano Ventura,” players union executive Tony Clark said. “It’s never easy to lose a member of our fraternity, and there are no words to describe the feeling of losing two young men in the prime of their lives. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their families, friends, teammates and fans throughout the United States and Latin America.”

Highway patrol spokesman Jacobo Mateo says Ventura died on a highway leading to the town of Juan Adrian, about 40 miles (70 kilometers) northwest of Santo Domingo. He says it’s not clear if Ventura was driving.

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With the fitting nickname of “Ace,” Ventura burst onto the baseball scene with a 100 mph fastball and an explosive attitude to match. He was a fierce competitor who was always willing to challenge hitters inside, then deal with the ramifications when they decided to charge the mound. He was suspended nine games last season for throwing at Orioles third baseman Manny Machado.

Ventura was a fixture in the Royals’ rotation since he finished sixth in Rookie of the Year voting in 2014. He went 11–12 last season with a 4.45 ERA. He made five postseason starts on the team’s run to the 2015 World Series title.

Perhaps Ventura’s best performance came in Game 6 of the 2014 World Series, when he pitched seven shutout innings in a must-win game against the Giants while paying tribute to his friend Oscar Taveras, the Cardinals prospect who himself had died in a car accident in the Dominican Republic two days prior. Ventura pitched his final game while wearing inscriptions on his hat paying tribute to Taveras and Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, who died in a boating accident in Miami in September.

Born June 3, 1991, in Samana, Dominican Republic, Ventura represented a true rags-to-riches story. He quit school at 14 and was laboring on a construction crew to support his family when Ventura heard about a tryout, which led to a spot in the Royals’ academy located on his picturesque island home.

Still, the odds were long that Ventura would ever make it to the big leagues. Very few players from the Dominican academies reached the pinnacle of the sport.

But over time, Ventura was able to harness one of the most electric fastballs that scouts had seen in years, and his headstrong and confident nature was essential in his rapid rise. He made his big league debut to great fanfare in 2013, allowing just one run again Cleveland in a sign of things to come.

He eventually became a cornerstone of a youth movement that included young stars such as first baseman Eric Hosmer and third baseman Mike Moustakas, one that carried the Royals first to respectability, then to the top of the American League — rare heights the organization had not experienced in decades.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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