KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Edinson Volquez walked off the mound in Game 1 of the World Series and into the dugout, where he came face-to-face with his manager Ned Yost. Right then and there, Yost wanted to clue Volquez in to the bad news so many other people already knew. Yost wanted to, but he couldn’t. He promised he wouldn’t.
“I almost told him when he was done, ‘You need to go call your wife,’ ” Yost said. “But I didn’t.”
When Volquez went to the clubhouse, his family was waiting for him. So was Royals general manager Dayton Moore. They went in Yost’s office and Volquez learned what Yost had promised not to tell him.
His father had died earlier in the day. Daniel Volquez, 63, succumbed to heart disease in the Dominican Republic.
The news began to spread in the U.S. as Volquez, 32, was making his warm-up pitches at Kauffman Stadium, ahead of the biggest start of his life. The Royals would eventually win, 5-4, in 14 exciting innings, to take a 1-0 lead in the series. Volquez wouldn’t factor into the decision, but he’d still be a central figure in a game that was decided hours after he finished pitching.
It was Volquez’s wife, Roandy, who asked the Royals not to tell her husband. According to Yost, she contacted Moore, told him what happened, but requested that they didn’t tell her husband until he was done pitching.
It created an eerie situation. Anybody following baseball on social media had heard the news, because it was widely reported and talked about in the early innings of the game. The Fox broadcast, however, didn’t mention Volquez’s father until he had learned the news. The reason? They didn’t want Volquez to hear it on the broadcast if he went to the clubhouse between innings.
Eventually, Fox play-by-play man Joe Buck told viewers what had happened. By then, Volquez had left the stadium and the team.
“He’s gone home,” Yost said after the game. “He left before the game ended.”
Most of Volquez’s teammates didn’t know what was going on either. One who did was pitcher Chris Young. Yost approached Young an hour before the game. If Volquez found out and couldn’t pitch, Young would have to replace him. So Yost told Young — whose own father died on Sept. 26 — in confidence.
"I certainly sympathize with the pain [Volquez is] going through tonight," Young said. "It's hard, it's really hard. I just really can't describe. I just feel sorry for him and feel his pain."
Pitchers Danny Duffy and Jeremy Guthrie saw Volquez in the clubhouse after he pitched but before he left the stadium. Both said they knew something was wrong.
“He knows that everyone in this clubhouse has his back,” Duffy said. “It’s terrible, terrible news. It really puts this game in perspective. Whenever Volquez decides to come back, when he’s comfortable, — he needs to be with his family right now — but when he comes back, everybody in here will be ready for a hug.”
The news put a damper on the Royals’ extra-innings win. It was another skin-of-their-teeth, walk-off victory, but it would eventually resonate in a bigger way. Third baseman Mike Moustakas says Yost told the team at one point, “Let’s win this for Eddie.” But it wasn’t until after the game that they found out exactly why. Guthrie gathered the Royals for their usual victory celebration. It was then that they learned what Volquez had learned a few hours earlier.
“We respect each other’s families,” said Moustakas after the game. He lost his mother to cancer in August and recently has been writing her initials in the dirt near the batter’s box with his bat handle. “When someone loses a family member that takes priority over everything that happens. Baseball 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.”
Volquez’ family chose baseball on his behalf Tuesday. He went out and he helped his team win, allowing three runs on six hits in his first-ever World Series appearance. Gutsy, his teammates called the performance. It’s the World Series, so the stakes were already high. Turned out the game was more important than even he knew at the time.
“You see Eddie out there competing his butt off,” Yost said. “And you just keep thinking, ‘What’s coming next?’ The news is coming next.”
The bad news did come next. And it changed the tenor of the biggest day of Volquez’s professional life. While some will criticize the Royals and the people close to Volquez for withholding the news, Yost said shortly after the Royals’ Game 1 win that he’s fine with what he had to do, with the promise that he made.
“I don’t feel bad,” Yost said. “I love Eddie Volquez and if his family asked me to do something, I’m going to do it.”
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