Just 4 months after the tragic loss of Jose Fernandez, the MLB has to face yet another young star taken too early. Early Sunday morning, Kansas City Royals’ flame-thrower, Yordano Ventura was pronounced dead after a horrific car accident in his native Dominican Republic. Ventura was a fan favorite, lighting up the radar gun at 100 MPH and having a fiery, competitive arrogance to go along with it.
In 2015, Ventura helped lead the Royals to their first World Series Championship since 1985. At the ripe age of 25, Ventura was the ace of a World Series Championship staff and had many years to continue his dominance. Watching Ventura reminded me a lot of a young Pedro Martinez. A skinny kid who owned the inside half of the plate by intimidating hitters and changing speeds at will. Ventura never backed down from any player, continuously challenging hitters inside and occasionally knocking a batter on their ass and worrying about the consequences later. His competitiveness and burning passion to win was an inspiration to me and is something that the MLB is going to truly miss.
Tragedy did not stop there. Also early Sunday morning former big-leaguer, Andy Marte died in a separate car accident in his home country, the Dominican Republic. Unfortunately, this is not the first time players have died on the highways of the Dominican Republic. Back in 2014 the St. Louis Cardinals lost their star outfielder Oscar Taveras to a car accident in his hometown of Puerto Plata.
The loss of both Ventura and Marte Sunday morning, as well as Taveras’ death just two years ago, has brought light to the extreme dangers of players going back to the Dominican Republic to train. For many, the Dominican Republic is home. Players will always go back to visit and prepare for the upcoming season. But at this point, it may seem wise to stay away from such dangerous areas. The World Health Organization put out a recent study, stating that the Dominican Republic had the highest traffic accident death-rate in the Americas.
As a General Manger, I believe it is imperative to explain to your players the dangers could come about in everyday scenarios. I think it is about time front offices around the league begin to talk about these issues. If contracts can be made to prevent players from doing dangerous activities like skydiving and riding a motor cycle, then precautions should be made to protect players from losing their lives in traffic accidents in the Dominican Republic.
I realize that for many, this takes away a person’s right to travel back to their home country and visit family members, but a solution along these lines needs to be made. I am not saying they should never be allowed back and that organizations should prevent them from traveling home. But hiring professional drivers or simply giving players a seminar about the dangerous situations they could face could prevent deaths, like we saw 4 months ago with Jose Fernandez or the most recent deaths of Ventura and Marte.
Tragedy strikes every sport but baseball is beginning to have a reoccurrence of heartbreaks. It is time to start talking about this problem. Baseball can no longer ignore the dangers associated with driving in the Dominican Republic as well as other vulnerabilities that can cause baseball’s stars to continuously be in harm’s way.