Too Soon

You can see it in his eyes when I begin to speak. The eye-roll. The body language slumping. You can certainly tell that for the next 15 seconds he’s not going to be listening to anything I say. But I say it anyway.

Eat your vegetables. Don’t forget a jacket. Wear pants, it’s 12 degrees out.

Flags at half-staff on January 22, 2017 following news of the death of Yordano Ventura [photo by Chris Kamler]

In one ear and out the other. And I was the same way when I was his age. I didn’t listen to most of the advice my parents gave me. But it’s incredible at how much I actually did listen to now that I’m grown up (read: old.) So much so, that I know enough to bug my kid about the same things.

Yordano Ventura was a part of our family here in Kansas City. The kid – drafted as a skinny lanky teenager with a rocketship for an arm – didn’t look like a pitcher the first time you saw him. As a cynical, grizzled Royals fan, you wondered if he wouldn’t flame out in the first year or two. But then you went out to watch a start. And you literally heard the sizzle of the fastball. And you saw the intensity – the fire – as he walked off the mound in three mostly meaningless starts at the tail end of 2013. But you saw the spark.

In 2014, that spark had smoldered into what will now be his legacy. Passion. Intensity. Immaturity. Ridiculous stuff. Potential. You start to see the man he can become, if only he could fix X or Y.

There was a lot of X or Y with Yordano. And this was a kid who was one of the most talented arms in baseball. You saw it all in 2014. The strikeouts. The wins. The flameouts. The bean balls. The fighting. The arm.

The intensity wasn’t always channeled in the right direction. [Photo by USAToday.com]

You could tell that his family was working on him, though. Eat your vegetables. Don’t forget a jacket. Wear pants, it’s 12 degrees out.

In July of 2014, that team, no, that family, started to believe and something just clicked in place. They ratted off win after win led by the right arm of #30 on the mound. He went 9-3 and 13-3 in games that he started in the last three months of 2014 with a 3.14 ERA and giving up a .227 batting average.

Once the postseason came around, Ventura was put in the unfamiliar role of savior. Again, he struggled. He was put in the unwinnable position in the Wild Card Game coming in in relief, where he gave up two hits and two earned runs giving up the lead to the A’s in one-third of an dreadful inning.

But the four games he would appear in that followed he posted a 2.52 ERA, the Royals won all five postseason games he appeared in and left the legacy of Game 6.

There’s a Beatles song called “A Day in the Life” that was written at the tail end of the band’s existence. It was as the four boys from Liverpool had now grown up to be men – each with their own musical stylings and talents. The genius of “A Day in the Life” is that it celebrated the band’s complicated emotions as much as it celebrated a piece of rock music. It was in the complicated lives of these men that brilliance was made.

Small shrine I left at Kauffman Stadium. The candles signify the Royals fans who followed Yordano’s career online and couldn’t make it to the K. [photo by Chris Kamler]

The song begins quietly then builds as an orchestra begins to just play noise in what is a cacophony of runs and crescendo. And then a moment of silence, and then the most perfect chord you’ll ever hear.

2014 Postseason was Ventura’s “A Day in the Life” and Game 6 of the 2014 World Series was his perfect chord. Everything came together in a flash of brilliance. He turned in one of the greatest postseason appearances of all time. Over 60 of his pitches in that game were notched at over 95 miles per hour pitching seven scoreless innings and willing the Royals towards a Game 7.

Those are the memories we will remember long after he’s gone.

But the true takeaway for me is that he was just a kid and needed to be reminded through 2015 by members of his family how to act and how to respect the game properly. Eat your vegetables. Don’t forget a jacket. Wear pants, it’s 12 degrees out.

In the end, we will remember that cacophony of complication that was Yordano Ventura. We will remember his passion, his electricity, and the fire.

But my takeaway is to never stop reminding my son to eat his vegetables regardless of how many shrugs and eye-rolls I get. Because after that stuff, comes lessons on treating others with respect, getting up for class, listening and learning, never drinking and driving, and for God’s sake – wear your seatbelt. There are only a few really, really important things that my son needs to listen to an learn. I will never, ever stop reminding him.

Descansa en paz, Yordano

2 Comments

  1. Angie Carr Robinett

    CHris, this is perfect! Just perfect!

  2. Steve Lusk

    It’s perfect. As fans, we feel like we’re part of that family.

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