Royals honor late Ventura in home opener

Royals honor late Ventura in home opener

KANSAS CITY -- One by one, Royals players from Mike Moustakas to Chris Young to Christian Colon to Danny Duffy picked up the giant, rolled-up banner and carried it past the pitcher's mound at Kauffman Stadium.

They carried it almost like pallbearers. And then they gently unfolded it, a black-and-white banner that read simply "ACE 30." They laid it on the ground.

It was perhaps the most moving part of the Royals' pregame ceremony Monday before the 2-0 loss to the A's in their home opener, as they honored the memory of Yordano Ventura, who died tragically in a January car accident in the Dominican Republic.

From near home plate, Eric Hosmer spoke to the crowd as he was flanked by manager Ned Yost, general manager Dayton Moore and catcher Salvador Perez: "On behalf of Ned and Dayton and Sal and the rest of the Royals, we want to thank you, Royals fans, for your tremendous support through all of this. Today we celebrate the life of Yordano."

In loving memory: Yordano Ventura

Moments earlier, a saxophone rendition of "Amazing Grace" solemnly played as images of Ventura's life flashed on the scoreboard.

Images of Yordano Ventura's life flashed on CrownVision. Jamie Squire/Getty Images

There were images of Ventura on and off the field. Images of him as a child. Images of him as a Royal, in the playoffs and in the World Series. Images of him at the World Series championship parade. Images of him with his Royals buddies, Hosmer and Kelvin Herrera and Raul Mondesi and Perez.

And, of course, images of that smile.

"That's what you don't forget," Duffy said.

Yordano Ventura's teammates spoke on his behalf, including first baseman Eric Hosmer. (Gettty)

As the ceremony ended, Marisol Hernandez, Ventura's mother, walked to the mound, the place where her son electrified crowds with his blazing fastball and playful showmanship.

She threw a one-hop strike to Perez as the crowd roared its approval.

After the game, Hernandez released a statement:

"I feel very happy, but mostly thankful to God to be here with the Kansas City Royals for Opening Day and for throwing the first pitch. I give thanks to God because He is the only one who can help us. Through my pain and all my suffering I knew I had to come and do this and because what happened to my son I know many people will know that God is the only way. I am feeling well. And thank you."

Inside the Royals' clubhouse, the memory of Ventura will endure.

Ventura's locker stall, with an ACE 30 in the name plate, sits empty, except for a framed picture with his jersey inside surrounded by photos of him in action.

A's players share memories of Ventura

Herrera's locker is next to Ventura's.

"We'll just try to take a positive out of a negative," Herrera said. 'We want him to be our inspiration this year. We won't forget him."

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.