Yordano Ventura was only 25 when he died. He’s not the first and won’t be the last professional athlete to die in their prime.
Football player Pat Tillman was 27. Baseball player Jose Fernandez was 24. Basketball players Len Bias and Hank Gathers were 22 and 23, respectively. The cause of these deaths varies, but each one was a shock.
Professional athletes get an inordinate amount of attention, adoration and criticism. Their ability enables them to excel in their sport. That doesn’t make them better or more intelligent than you or me. It just gives them a public stage and opportunity to be heard.
Some sports figures use that platform to push a particular political agenda or social cause. Others prefer to keep their comments to their particular sport or team. And some athletes are criticized for keeping silent on issues.
When Yordano Ventura died, he was on the verge of becoming a full-fledged star in the Major Leagues. When an accident claimed his life, the reverberation was felt throughout Major League Baseball and sports in general.
It’s not normal for professional athletes to serve as pallbearers for another teammate while still active in the Major Leagues. It seemed surreal. But it wasn’t, because the pain was all too real. The shock was real. The tears and sadness were real.
Professional athletes, like many young people, have an air of invincibility about them. After all, their future is ahead of them. Sure, injuries can provide a reality check, but death? Never; or at least not for a long time.
But when death happens to a teammate, rest assured emotions will be raw for a while. Not even the game will provide a complete escape. There will always be an occasion or something to remind teammates of when Ventura was at their side.
At some point, there will be time to discuss what impact Ventura’s death has on an already thin Kansas City Royals pitching staff—one that can use all the good arms it can get.
Ventura’s life on Earth is over. Did we need another reminder how fragile life can be and how it can end in a heartbeat for anyone, even though deep down we know we’re all mortal?
If you look at obituaries, you’ll see that most people live 70-plus years. But there are always those who die young as a result of an accident, cancer or other cause.
When I learned of Ventura’s death, the thought occurred to me that his life isn’t any more or less important than the next person, but because of his profession, more people are affected.
He was a young, brash, talented and feisty starting pitcher who gained some notoriety as a starting pitcher on two Royals teams that played in consecutive World Series. He wasn’t always great, but he had electric stuff and when he was at his best, he had the ability to carry the team on his back.
Ventura’s death raises the inevitable “Why” questions, not the least of which concerns the 800-pound gorilla in the room, “Is there life after death?” “Is there a heaven and hell?” and “What determines where a person spends eternity?”
People differ on that. Religions differ on that.
It’s illogical to think that everyone’s opinion can be right, because those opinions differ. Regardless, Ventura’s death was a sobering reminder that it all ends for everyone, famous or talented or unknown and alone.
Philosopher Thomas Aquinas said, “There is within every soul a thirst for happiness and meaning.”
I’ve placed my hope for eternity in Jesus Christ, who claims to be the Son of God in the Bible.
Some place their hope in someone or something else, and some think this life is all there is.
Of course, as long as you have life, you have time to choose what to believe. But your time on Earth, like Yordano Ventura’s, will eventually run out.
Hillsboro resident Joe Kleinsasser is director of news and media relations at Wichita State University. Reach him at Joe.Kleinsasser@wichita.edu.