Death of pitcher's father marks third time this season KC player has lost parent
By Richard Justice
KANSAS CITY -- There have been too many days like this for the Kansas City Royals in a season of celebration and accomplishment. Days of pain and sadness. Days of searching for the right words when they know full well there are no right words.
At times like these, something larger emerges, something sweeter. They are family, these Royals. Isn't that the definition of a team?
These players and coaches and their manager share one another's joys and laughter during a nine-month journey. They share victories, large and small. They also share some pain, because that's part of life too.
That's what the Royals were dealing with again in the hours after a tense, compelling 14-inning 5-4 victory over the New York Mets in Game 1 of the 2015 World Series that ended in the wee hours of Wednesday morning.
It was a spectacularly entertaining game, one that lasted five hours, nine minutes and became something of a war of wills. When it ended, though, there was another hard dose of reality as the Royals were told that starting pitcher Edinson Volquez's father, Daniel, 63, had died earlier in the day.
Volquez's family asked that the pitcher not be told about the death, that he be allowed to enjoy one of the greatest baseball days in his life with a clear mind.
Daniel Volquez is the one who taught Edinson Volquez how to play baseball. He taught him how to love it, too. As the Royals celebrated a huge, important victory, their emotions were all over the place.
"I could not imagine what they went through," Royals pitcher Danny Duffy said of the Volquez family. "They need to know that there's about 55 people in this clubhouse that would do anything for them. We all stand together when something like that happens. So sad. He's going to be missed for the next couple of days. Whenever he decides to come back, we'll be waiting for him with open arms."
There were similar sentiments in every corner of the home clubhouse at Kauffman Stadium.
"It just hits everybody hard," Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer said. "We just get done walking off, winning a big ballgame, and you come in here and find out something like that has happened. Unfortunately, we've experienced it before this year. We just want to be there for him, but he has to be there for his family right now."
Sadness and loss have become recurring themes in this, one of the greatest baseball summers Kansas City has ever had. First was the August death of Connie Moustakas, third baseman Mike Moustakas' mother, who passed away due to cancer. In September, pitcher Chris Young's father, Charles, died, also of cancer.
In those times, the Royals did what brothers do. They wrapped their emotional arms around one another, offering support and sympathy. In whatever small way they could, they were determined to ease the pain as much as possible. Meanwhile, they kept winning games.
"We're his baseball family. We're here for him," Young said of Volquez. "This club has so much character, so much fight. It was a complete team effort."
Indeed, that's one of the back stories of these Royals. From the first hour of Spring Training, they gathered in Arizona committed to finishing what was left unfinished with a Game 7 World Series loss to the Giants last season. This is about winning games, about big hits and executing pitches and all that stuff. It's also about more than that. It's about creating the right clubhouse environment. It's about offering support to one another in matters small and large.
"Right after I came in from pitching, I saw Eddie and said, 'Great job, man,'" Duffy said. "He just looked down. He'd already showered. I asked what was up. He told me, and I couldn't find the words. He just needs to know we're here for him. He's a good man."
The Royals learned of Daniel Volquez's death about an hour before game time. General manager Dayton Moore relayed the news to manager Ned Yost, along with the request from Volquez's family that Edinson not be told.
"It was hard for me to know what I knew and see him compete the way he competed," Yost said. "It was just hard. He was happy, upbeat. He was sitting over there talking to all his friends. I was like, 'OK, he doesn't know anything.' There's no road map for something like this. You just do what the family asks you to do. It was real special to them that Eddie goes out and pitches this game."
To have three players lose parents in a single season is unique. That the Royals dealt with their grief while continuing on their mission speaks volumes about their commitment and resilience. In the end, every little thing is connected to every other little thing.
In a twist the Royals might consider appropriate, Volquez, Young and Moustakas all contributed to the victory. Volquez pitched the first six innings, Young the last three, and Moustakas did his usual thing, collecting two hits and making a couple of nice defensive plays at third base.
"I don't think I've ever been through a year where you go through something like this," Yost said. "It's hard. I know how hard it was for Moose, and I know how hard it was for Chris. You see Eddie out there competing his butt off, and you just keep thinking about what's coming next."
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.