Father's Day: With heavy heart, Volquez seeks clinch
Right-hander returns to Royals in time to make Game 5 start
NEW YORK -- When Edinson Volquez arrived at his father's funeral in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, late Wednesday afternoon, he saw more than a dozen of his first professional teammates. Fourteen years ago, training together at the Rangers' academy in the D.R., they became a family, promising to always support one another, and in this moment -- this most trying moment -- Volquez found strength in their company.
They stayed up until it was almost midnight, catching up, trading stories, sharing laughs, grieving. And as the night went on, the weight on Volquez's shoulders began to lift. He felt love, he felt comfort. And he felt ready to get back to work; to start Game 5 of the World Series on Sunday (game time 8 p.m. ET on FOX) and to honor his late father by helping his Kansas City Royals win a World Series championship following Saturday's 5-3 win.
"It was incredible," said Manny Batista, the Brewers' scout who signed Volquez and so many others while with the Rangers in 2001. "I've been in this game for 29 years. Independent of the pain that we all felt for the loss of our friend's father, I've never felt a warmth and a support as great as that night, where we could all feel like a true family, where we all shared in his pain and all tried to help him carry that weight. I think it liberated him."
The most emotional, impactful start of Volquez's life will come against Mets right-hander Matt Harvey in front of a frenzied Citi Field crowd and with his Royals holding a 3-1 edge in this best-of-seven Series, oh-so-close to their first World Series title in 30 years.
He will be five days removed from losing his father, Daniel, who died on Tuesday at the age of 63 due to complications from a heart condition. Daniel passed hours before Game 1 of the World Series, but Volquez didn't find out until after he had pitched six innings of three-run ball.
Volquez went home shortly thereafter -- and moments before the Royals would go on to win, 5-4, in 14 innings -- then flew to his native country the following day.
On Saturday night, Volquez drove straight from the airport and joined his teammates right before the first pitch of Game 4. Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Chris Young, Alex Rios, Jarrod Dyson and so many others welcomed him back, told him how excited they were to see him.
Then manager Ned Yost had a question: "Are you ready to pitch?"
"Yeah, that's why I'm here," Volquez responded. "I want to pitch. I want to make people proud."
Volquez recalled that conversation from the interview room late Saturday night. He began by thanking everybody who reached out over the last four days, then immediately began to look forward.
Volquez said he is "excited" for Sunday, calling the Game 5 start "a dream come true" and saying that he'll be thinking about his mother when he takes the mound.
"My mom told me before I got here, 'Go over there and enjoy the game like you always do and be proud,'" Volquez said. "'We are proud of you. Be proud and make people proud, more proud than they are.'"
Daniel, a mechanic, instilled a love for baseball in Volquez when he was about 10. He bought him his first glove, a Pedro Martinez model, and took him to his first game.
"He was everything for me," Volquez said. "He was one of the greatest men."
Volquez will honor his father on Sunday by scribbling his initials inside his hat or inside his glove. He is the third member of the Royals to lose a parent in a 12-week stretch. Moustakas lost his mother, Connie, in August. Young lost his father, Charles, in September.
"We love one another in here, and we'll do anything for him -- anything to help him," said Young, who threw five no-hit innings against the Indians on Sept. 27, the day after he lost his dad.
"Everyone knows how hard it is lose a member of the family, especially a parent," shortstop Alcides Escobar said. "He's calm, and I feel that in his mind he's focusing on winning the game for his father."
Volquez took the mound for Game 1 moments after his father passed, but he wasn't given the news until after coming out of the game. Volquez's wife wanted it that way, and the Royals obliged. They kept quiet, even as news circulated via social media. FOX subsequently waited until late in the game to reveal the information, out of fear that Volquez would find out by watching the clubhouse TVs between innings.
Before, during and after his start, many wondered if Volquez knew.
"It was hard," Volquez's agent, Lenny Strelitz, said. "I think I was like everybody else, wondering if he did know or he didn't know. I was trying to read into his body language. I know he's matured a lot the last few years, becoming a parent himself and things of that nature. He's become a leader. He's an experienced veteran, and a guy that I'm sure this team leans on a lot. He was up to the task."
Volquez confirmed late on Saturday night that he had no knowledge of his father's passing until after his start and called the decision to withhold the information "the right choice." Had he known, he said, "I don't even know if I'm going to be able to pitch."
He would have needed more time. He needed to return home. He needed to see his mother. He needed to reunite with those dozen or so players he trained with as a skinny, scared 18-year-old, none of whom are currently in the Major Leagues.
"I think that helped him relax a little bit; it helped liberate him," said Batista, who knows Volquez better than practically anybody in the game. "I think he's ready now. I think he's ready to honor his father."