Flood of Father's Day emotions for Volquez

June 19th, 2016

It's been almost eight months for Edinson Volquez.

They've been eight great months. They've been eight very difficult months. They're eight months he'll never forget, and eight months he'll be reminded of once again when a whirlwind of emotions hits him on Father's Day -- the first such holiday without his dad.

Volquez, of course, is the Royals pitcher whose father, Daniel, passed away at the age of 63 on the same day that Edinson pitched Game 1 of the 2015 World Series against the New York Mets. At the wishes of his family, Volquez was not told of his father's death from heart disease in the Dominican Republic prior to taking the mound at Kauffman Stadium that same night.

The television audience, his teammates, Royals management … just about everyone else knew. But the suddenly fatherless son did not find out until after he started a game the Royals would win, 5-4, in 14 innings.

Once he was taken out after six effective innings, Volquez was greeted by his wife, Roandry, and Royals general manager Dayton Moore in Kansas City manager Ned Yost's office. He flew back to his home country the next day, but returned in time to start Game 5 at Citi Field, which the Royals ended up winning, 7-2, in 12 innings, to clinch the franchise's first title since 1985.

:: Father's Day 2016 ::"It was hard for me to know what I knew and see him compete the way he competed," Yost said after Game 1. "It was just hard. He was happy, upbeat. He was sitting over there talking to all his friends. I was like, 'OK, he doesn't know anything.' There's no road map for something like this. You just do what the family asks you to do. It was real special to them that Eddie goes out and pitches this game."

Almost eight months later, it's all still special.

Volquez has become a rock of the Royals' starting rotation during a season in which injuries have plagued the club. Kansas City is still in contention in the American League Central as the season enters the crucial summer months, and Volquez is doing his part, which would undoubtedly make his dad proud.

Volquez was strong for six innings, giving up just two runs and four hits, and he retired 14 straight at one point in a 16-5 win over the Tigers on Saturday. But Volquez (7-6) gave up four hits and three runs in the seventh.

So as this difficult Father's Day approaches, Volquez said he is experiencing sadness and the joy of beautiful, loving memories at the same time.

"I think the best [memory] was when he took me to the baseball field for the first time," Volquez said of his father, who was a mechanic and bought his son his first glove and first pair of spikes.

"He saw something different in me, like I could be a professional baseball player. I was like nine or 10 years old and he asked me if I wanted to be a baseball player, and I said, 'Yes.' That was a big moment for me, when he took me to the field."

Volquez fulfilled that dream when he made it to the Majors in 2005 as a 21-year-old member of the Texas Rangers with boundless potential. After the Rangers traded Volquez to the Reds, he won 17 games for Cincinnati in '08, an All-Star season. Injuries have slowed him down, but he enjoyed a mid-career resurgence in Pittsburgh in '14, landed a two-year contract with the Royals the following offseason, and now owns a World Series ring that was earned under extraordinary circumstances.

"It was really hard for me because I lost my dad in the World Series," Volquez said. "It was really hard for me to win the World Series without my father. But at the same time, I was really happy, because when I went back to the Dominican, my mom told me he wanted me to pitch that game, and I did it."

The Royals all did it in 2015. They played together, they won together, and they grieved together. It wasn't just Volquez who lost a parent last year. As it turned out, third baseman Mike Moustakas' mother, Connie, passed away from cancer in August. And in September, pitcher Chris Young's dad, Charles, also died of cancer.

Naturally, when Volquez was hit by a personal tragedy that struck way too soon, his teammates didn't hesitate to support him unconditionally.

"We're his baseball family," Young said after the World Series was over, soaked in celebratory champagne. "We're here for him. This club has so much character, so much fight. It was a complete team effort."

Now it's almost eight months later, and it's a sad, brutal Father's Day. It's more uncharted territory for Volquez, but he said he will focus on the important things -- the things that will always stay in his heart.

"It's going to be hard," Volquez said. "The first time [on Father's Day] at 32 years old without my dad. It's really hard.

"But I'm happy because I know he's going to be with me that day."