Royals err by leaving Volquez in the dark


Those who stayed up into the wee hours of the night, 1:19 a.m. to be exact, to watch the 2015 World Series opener were not disappointed. The game had all of the elements that a sports fan loves: thrill, drama, comebacks and tragedy. The New York Mets eventually lost 5-4 in 14 innings to the Kansas City Royals in the early hours of Oct. 28.

Despite the victory, Kansas City was handed their own tragedy to deal with.  Starting pitcher Edison Volquez’s father passed away earlier in the day before the game on Oct. 27, in the Dominican Republic, at age 63; he had been affected by heart problems. But, this news did not affect Volquez’s game — he pitched six innings, giving up six hits and three runs — because he wasn’t even aware of the news. At the request of his family, Royals staff held off telling Volquez that his father died for the very fear that it would affect his pitching.

While this reasoning can be understood, it is disheartening that our society has gotten to the point that sports so blatantly come before anything else, including the death of those closest to us.

In this situation specifically, it is hard to point fingers and assign blame. The news had been leaked on Twitter, and the Royals management, the Fox broadcasters and many of the fans in Kaufman Stadium knew of the situation. But Royals Manager Ned Yost had made a promise to Volquez’s wife not to tell Volquez until he was taken out.

In trying not to cloud the start, however, withholding the news did just that. Volquez’s performance, and surely one of the happiest starts of his career, will now be tainted with tragedy. It will now be “the game I found out that my dad died after I pitched.” This could have been avoided had Volquez been informed prior to the game and had been given the decision as to whether he wanted to pitch that evening, or a game later in the series, to let the news sink in.

It is impossible to speculate about what would have happened had Volquez learned this news before his start, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have been told. As big of a sports fan as I am, I would never pin a bad performance or a loss on someone in moments of tragedy, and I would like to think that this is the majority opinion.

One teammate who did know of the death was pitcher Chris Young, who came in during the 12th inning in relief. Young, slated as the Game 4 starter, was told the news because if Volquez found out, Young would have started the game, according to Yahoo Sports.  The Royals should have explored this option, telling Volquez the news before the game and offering him to switch starts with Young.

Young also could relate to Volquez; his own father died on Sept. 26, and he pitched a no-hitter the very next day against the Indians, and got the win. Third baseman Mike Moustakas lost his mother to cancer in August, and he now writes her initials by the batter’s box before every game. Like Moustakas and Young, Volquez could have risen to the occasion, with the support of his teammates, and perhaps pitched even better, given the opportunity.

Too often we are too caught up in things that, in the grand scheme of life, really don’t matter — be it school, work, sports or other activities. Moustakas put everything in perspective after the game by saying, “[B]aseball is baseball. But family, that’s something that is more important than baseball. This is the World Series. It’s phenomenal. But family takes over everything.”

While it may seem that the world stops for sports and nothing else matters in the heat of the moment, this is not reality. The Royals, and Volquez’s own wife, should have taken a hint from Moustakas. Nothing trumps family, even dreams of winning a World Series.

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