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In 2015, the Kansas City Royals did something few MLB fans thought was possible by winning the World Series. An organization that had struggled for many years was finally on top of the baseball world.

Yordano Ventura, a right-handed pitcher who made 32 starts that year between the regular season and playoffs, played a vital part in helping the Royals win the title. But just two years after reaching the peak of the sport, he died in a car crash in the Dominican Republic.

Yordano Ventura entered the MLB ranks with the Kansas City Royals

Former Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura points to the sky
Yordano Ventura leaves the mound during Game 6 of the 2015 American League Championship Series at Kauffman Stadium | Jamie Squire/Getty Images

In 2008, the Royals signed Yordano Ventura as an international free agent. He spent 18 months training at the Royals’ academy and quickly became one of the top prospects in the organization. Five years later, he was named the team’s co-Minor League Player of the Year alongside pitcher Lane Adams.

A 22-year-old Ventura debuted at the MLB level on Sept. 17, 2013. He made three starts at the tail end of the season and finished with an 0-1 record and a 3.52 ERA.

Prior to the 2014 campaign, Ventura won the Royals’ last rotation spot in spring training. He started 30 games and finished with a 14-10 record and a 3.20 ERA to place sixth in the American League Rookie of the Year voting. In the playoffs, Ventura started Game 2 of the American League Division Series against the Los Angeles Angels. He pitched 7.0 innings and gave up one run on five hits, though Brandon Finnegan was the pitcher of record in a 4-1 extra-innings victory.

The Royals kept winning and advanced to the 2014 World Series, where they faced the San Franciso Giants.

Ventura pitched in Game 2 and allowed two runs and eight hits over 5.1 innings as the Royals won 7-2 thanks to a scoring outburst in the bottom of the sixth inning once the righty was no longer the pitcher of record. He took the mound again in Game 6 with the Royals down 3-2, throwing seven scoreless innings in a 10-0 victory that forced a Game 7. However, the Giants went on to defeat the Royals in that final contest.

Yordano Ventura won his first and only World Series in 2015

After his successful performance in 2014, Yordano Ventura was named the Royals’ 2015 Opening Day starter. He started against the Chicago White Sox and pitched 6.0 innings before leaving the game with a right thumb cramp. The Royals gave him a lot of run support and won 10-1.

He finished the 2015 season at 13-8 with a 4.08 ERA and 156 strikeouts in 163.1 innings.

The Royals finished as one of the top teams in the American League for a second straight season. They advanced to a second straight World Series, this time taking on the New York Mets. In Game 3 of the World Series, Ventura gave up five runs in 3.1 innings and took the loss, but the Royals still defeated the Mets in five games to win the World Series.

During the follow-up campaign, Ventura struggled his way to a 4.45 ERA and an 11-12 record over 186.0 innings.

Yordano Ventura’s shocking and tragic death

The 2016 season was the last time Yordano Ventura pitched in MLB.

On Jan. 22, 2017, he was involved in a car crash where he lost control of his Jeep and flipped over on a curved road in the Dominican Republic. Ventura, who was reportedly not wearing a seat belt, was thrown out of the vehicle and presumed dead when police arrived. Per Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star, he was driving through thick fog when his tires went off the road and an “overcorrection resulted in a rollover and his car resting on its side on the side of the road.”

“We suffered an incredible loss today,” ISE Baseball, Ventura’s agency, said in a statement. “Our hearts and souls are broken with the passing of Yordano Ventura. Yordano’s heart and passion for the game of baseball and for life had no equal. Today we lost a teammate, who never backed down; a friend who never let you down; and a brother, who always made you smile. Rest in peace.”

Ventura’s death was the first death of an active player in Royals franchise history. He was 25 when he died.

During the 2017 season, Kansas City players wore “ACE 30” patches on their uniforms in his memory.

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