The Royals organization is still reeling after the tragic death of young pitcher Yordano Ventura from a car collision in his native Dominican Republic. His death, sadly, was not an isolated incident, and the rash of ballplayer deaths in that country is the subject of this week’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel on HBO.
The award-winning sports program sends correspondent Jon Frankel to the Dominican Republic to investigate why 15 baseball players have died in car collisions there in the last 22 years. Car collisions have become the leading cause of death for Dominican males, according to the program. Ventura’s death is highlighted, but his tragedy is just one of many, including the death of Ventura’s friend, Oscar Taveras, back in 2014.
The show is an eye-opening look at unsafe driving conditions in the country. Traffic laws are loosely enforced, alcohol is readily available for drivers, and despite a public awareness campaign by the government, reckless driving continues. The deaths prompted Pirates coach and former big league pitcher Amaury Telemaco to launch a campaign of his own targeted at Dominican ballplayers to practice safe driving habits and be aware of the dangers of driving in their native country.
The cause of Ventura’s death has not been made public, although many details from that night have emerged. Taveras had a blood-alcohol content five times the legal limit when he was killed in a collision. The program shows just how easily it is to drink and drive in the country, which allows for drive-through bars. Telemaco laments the misleading mindset of many Dominican drivers is that they are better drivers when drunk.
“Our roads, I call it the ‘Valley of Death.”
Perhaps most heartbreaking is the interview Frankel has with Ventura’s mother, Marisol. She remembers how Ventura dedicated Game 6 of the 2014 World Series against the Giants to his friend Taveras, who died earlier that week.
"Maybe when my son did that, it never crossed his mind, that he was going to die in a car accident the same way Oscar died."
Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel airs Tuesday night, April 18, at 9 p.m. CT on HBO and re-airs throughout the week.