The baseball world suffered two losses in a matter of hours on Sunday morning as Kansas City Royals right-handed pitcher and former longtime infielder Andy Marte died in separate car accidents.
Both tragedies occurred in the athletes’ native Dominican Republic. Cristian Moreno of ESPN noted that both Ventura and Marte were under the influence at the time of their accidents.
Marte was 33 years old while Ventura was 25 years old.
Marte and Ventura’s deaths mark the third major casualties in the baseball world since September when Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez perished in a boating accident that left two others dead. It’s also a cruel twist of fate for Ventura; he honored his friend and former St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Oscar Tavares, during a 2014 World Series start, days after Tavares passed away in a car accident in the Dominican Republic.
“Our prayers right now are with Yordano’s family as we mourn this young man’s passing,” said Royals general manager Dayton Moore. “He was so young and so talented, full of youthful exuberance and always brought a smile to everyone he interacted with. We will get through this as an organization, but right now is a time to mourn and celebrate the life of Yordano.”
Unlike Ventura, Marte was no longer in MLB after spending parts of seven seasons as a utility infielder. While the player provided fans with memorable moments, like striking out Nick Swisher in a rare pitching appearance, the man was regarded as one of the nicest people in the game.
“Words can’t express the emotions from the loss of our client Andy Marte. Gone too soon. A great person on and off the field,” Marte’s agency, J.M.G. baseball, said on Twitter.
While the date of their deaths will always bind Marte and Ventura, so will their careers. Marte’s final game came with the Arizona Diamondbacks on August 6, 2014, against the Royals. Kansas City’s starting and winning pitcher that day? Yordano Ventura.
Marte, best known for his five-year stint with the Cleveland Indians from 2006-2010, began his professional career in 2000 with the Atlanta Braves after signing as a free agent.
He quickly rose through the ranks and was consistently a top prospect in the game. Marte’s peak came after the 2004 season when Baseball America ranked him the No.9 prospect in all of baseball.
“Sorry to hear of Andy Marte’s death in a car accident. Was once one of the top prospects in the game. Condolences to his family,” J.J. Cooper of Baseball America wrote on Twitter.
However, Marte’s opportunity in Atlanta was limited as he registered just 66 plate appearances in 2005 before he traded twice during the 2006 offseason. First, the Braves shipped Marte to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for World Series hero and veteran shortstop Edgar Renteria. In January 2006, the Red Sox traded Marte to the Indians as part of a seven-player deal; Boston acquired Coco Crisp, Josh Bard, and David Riske for Marte, Guillermo Mota, Kelly Shoppach, Randy Newson, and cash.
Sad to learn of Andy Marte’s death this morning. He was a genuine person who always greeted you with a warm smile.
— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) January 22, 2017
Marte went on to post a cumulative.224/.281/.369 slash line with 20 home runs and 92 runs batted in for the Indians over parts of five seasons. He was a member of the 2007 Indians squad that came within one game of reaching the World Series.
“So sad, without a doubt Andy Marte was one of the nicest human being[s] to ever put a baseball uniform on. RIP,” his former manager in Cleveland, Manny Acta, tweeted.
After departing from Cleveland, Marte inked minor league deals with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and Arizona Diamondbacks, the latter being the final team he played for in the majors (2014). Over the past two seasons, Marte tore up the Korea Baseball Organization with the KT WIZ, slashing an outstanding.312/.390/.547 while swatting 20+ HRs in both seasons.
After signing a meager $28,000 deal as an international free agent in 2008, Ventura rose through the Kansas City farm system aided by his blazing fastball.
Ventura made his MLB debut in September 2013 before he joined the Royals’ starting staff on a full-time basis in 2014. Ventura went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA, finishing sixth in the American League Rookie of the Year Award voting. The following season, Ventura went 13-8 with a 4.08 ERA as Kansas City rolled to a World Series championship.
Yordano Ventura died in a car crash on Sunday morning. He was 25. pic.twitter.com/sBSBiULDRp
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 22, 2017
Last season, Ventura struggled, going 11-12 with a 4.45 ERA but he was expected to be a major part of the team’s rotation entering 2017. Throughout his career, Ventura was known for having passion on and off the mound, which led to several scuffles during games.
Now, the Royals, much like the Cardinals and Marlins before them, will not only have to fill a huge void but do so in a state of grievance.
[Featured Image by Ed Zurga/Getty Images]