In what can only be described as the worst of coincidences, two Latin American ball players lost their lives in separate car crashes in the Dominican Republic early Sunday morning. Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura, who had a large role in the team’s resurgence that led to the 2015 World Series title, was announced as dying in a car crash mere hours after former major league infielder Andy Marte was revealed to have perished by similar means.

Metropolitan traffic authorities said Marte died early Sunday morning when the Mercedes Benz he was driving hit a house along a road between San Francisco de Macoris and Pimentel, about 95 miles north of Santo Domingo, the capital. Marte’s family was holding a vigil for him on Sunday and planned to bury him within hours. Marte was playing winter league baseball for Las Aguilas Cibaenas.

Marte played the past two seasons for the KT Wiz of the Korean Baseball Organization. He last played in the majors with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2014. Marte’s final major league appearance came in a game started by Ventura. According to Baseball Reference, Marte appeared as a pinch hitter on Aug. 6, 2014, striking out to end the game. Marte didn’t face Ventura, who was the winning pitcher. Marte was considered a top prospect when he signed with the Atlanta Braves in 2000 but never translated his potential to major league success. He played both first base and third base in the majors and had a .218 batting average with 21 home runs and 99 RBIs in seven seasons for the Diamondbacks, Braves and Cleveland Indians.

With the fitting nickname of “Ace,” Ventura burst onto the baseball scene with a 100 mph fastball and an explosive attitude to match. He was a fierce competitor always willing to challenge hitters inside, then deal with the ramifications when they decided to charge the mound. Ventura went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA in 2014, his first full season in the big leagues, and helped the long-downtrodden Royals reach the World Series for the first time since 1985. He proceeded to dominate San Francisco in both of his starts, though the Royals would ultimately lose in seven games. Not surprisingly, he quickly became a fan favorite as Kansas City embraced baseball once again.

Ventura had a fastball that averaged 96 mph, and he used it often. He was suspended nine games this past season — later reduced to eight games on appeal — after he hit Orioles slugger Manny Machado in the back with a 99 mph fastball on June 7. Machado charged the mound and punched Ventura in the head as the benches emptied.

Highway patrol spokesman Jacobo Mateo said Ventura died on a highway leading to the town of Juan Adrian, about 40 miles northwest of Santo Domingo. Mateo did not say whether Ventura was driving. Ventura will be buried Tuesday in the Dominican Republic. Moore, manager Ned Yost and other members of the Royals are planning to attend.

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. A 2015 study by the World Health Organization found that the Dominican Republic had the highest traffic accident death rate in the Americas, with a rate of 29.3 per 100,000 inhabitants.

In an eerie coincidence, Ventura paid tribute to his friend and countryman Taveras with a handwritten message on his cap during Game 6. Taveras’ funeral occurred just hours before Ventura stepped on the mound. Ventura wore a cap with “RIP O.T #18” written on it for his start in which he threw seven shutout innings in a 10-0 win.

Ventura is the second young pitching star to die in the past four months. Marlins ace Jose Fernandez was among three men killed in a boating accident in late September, when the 24-year-old pitcher’s boat crashed into a jetty off Miami Beach in the early morning hours.

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