Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura, a key member of their 2015 World Series winning squad, died in a car crash in his native Dominican Republic early Sunday. He was 25.
"Obviously our prayers go out to Yordano's family, all his friends, his teammates, our fans and everybody throughout the baseball community,'' Royals general manager Dayton Moore said on a conference call Sunday afternoon. "Everybody with our team and our organization is hurting deeply. This is certainly something that puts everything into strong perspective. It's a reminder that nobody is guaranteed tomorrow.
"We loved Yordano. We loved his heart and who he was as a teammate and a friend. He's somebody that challenged us all and made us better. We're going to miss him.''
Also Sunday, former major league infielder Andy Marte died in a separate car accident in the Dominican Republic.
Two other active Dominican baseball players have died on the country's highways in recent years.
St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras -- a close friend of Ventura's -- died in 2014 when he crashed in his hometown of Puerto Plata. He was 22. Shortstop Andujar Cedeno died at age 31 in a 2000 crash in the city of La Romana.
Fans began arriving at Kauffman Stadium shortly after Ventura's death was announced, leaving flowers, hats and other mementos outside the stadium. Flags outside the ballpark also were lowered to half-staff.
"We are deeply saddened to learn of the tragic passing of Andy Marte and Yordano Ventura," players union executive Tony Clark said. "It's never easy to lose a member of our fraternity, and there are no words to describe the feeling of losing two young men in the prime of their lives. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their families, friends, teammates and fans throughout the United States and Latin America."
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred also issued a statement saying it was a sad day for the game, especially in the Dominican Republic.
"Yordano was a key figure in the Royals' recent success. His electric talent on the mound helped lead the Royals to two American League pennants and the 2015 World Championship," he said. "Andy was a respected member of six organizations who played seven Major League seasons, including for the Cleveland Indians from 2006-2010. "On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my deepest condolences to the families, teammates, friends and fans of both players."