Yordano

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Edinson Vólquez, Pitcher / Miami Marlins - The Players' Tribune

A lot of people over this summer — they ask me what Yordano would say, if he still alive, after I throw my no-hitter on his birthday in June. And I think, because it’s this sad story, you know, I think maybe they expecting that I tell them something very sad. Like they think Yordano would have called me up, and he give me one of these big emotional quotes from the heart. But those people — they didn’t know Yordano.

Here’s what he would have texted me later that night: It’s about time!

That was the Yordano I knew, the guy I loved. He was like a little brother — to me, but also I think just in general. He was just kind of this little brother, to everyone, that was his personality, that was his way. He was always the funniest one, and the most full-of-life one, and of course he was the most talented one.

And that was his favorite words to say to me, I think, because it’s like … About time! It’s this little brother thing. Every time I do something good, he’ll go, “About time! Man, it’s about time you did it!” Even after we win the World Series, the biggest accomplishment, he’ll be like, “Edinson, man, you old. You an old guy. You’re supposed to do this — you know that, right? You’re supposed to do that.” It was just really funny. It would make you … it’s like, you know, you’re almost crying when he does this, because you’re laughing so much. And that was Yordano: always there to give me this hard time — but only as his way to show he cared.

So I’m pretty sure, after the no-hitter, he would say that.

He’d go, It’s about time! Edinson — you’re 33! Come on, Old Man. About time you get a no-no. What were you waiting for?

And we’d both just sit there and laugh about it. We’d laugh until forever, man. And that was sort of our secret language, you know. Yordano would do his thing, but it would only be to show me he cared. It’s about time, Old Man! — that would mean, like, I’m proud of you.

I’m proud of you, Big Brother.


When I woke up that morning, it was these mixed emotions. It was very tough. I just kept thinking, you know — June 3rd, 2017. That would have been only Yordano’s 26th birthday. He was so young. So I knew that he was going to be on my mind for this whole day. And it’s hard, because, every time you think of your memories with a person who’s gone — it’s almost like you’re missing them all over again.

I found one of the pictures I have of me and Yordano together, and put it up on my Instagram. And I thought maybe, O.K., this is how I will honor him. This picture will be the thing. I will put this up … and then that will be that, right?

But that’s typical Yordano: You underestimate him at your own risk. He was so young when he died, but in his own way, man, he was still a giant. And now, thinking back, it’s like — Of course an Instagram post wouldn’t be enough to honor Yordano. Of course. Of course he was going to be on everyone’s minds that day, more than just this.

On my way to the ballpark that morning, I got on the phone with a friend of mine from back in the Dominican. “You gonna throw a no-hitter today,” he told me. “For Yordano.”

“O.K., bro,” I said, laughing. It’s like, what do you even say to that? I didn’t think much of it.

But then when I got to the ballpark — I’m talking, like, right when I got there — I ran into my pitching coach. And the first thing he said to me was, he goes, “How are you feeling? I’m thinking a no-hitter today.”

It’s crazy, right? Two people that morning told me that I was going to throw a no-hitter.

But again, man — that’s just the effect Yordano would have on people: He bringin’ a little crazy. A lot of confidence. And a constant source of just, this … feeling. This feeling that greatness was right around the corner.


I signed with Kansas City after the 2014 World Series, a tough one, when they lose to the Giants in seven games. Yordano, it was his rookie year, but he pitch really well in that Series. And they wanted to bring in a veteran, I guess, someone to help mentor him and help him take those next steps, get to that next level. Someone who spoke his language and “spoke his language,” you know what I’m saying? It wasn’t even a low-key thing: They had Yordano come to my press conference, when I signed my contract. They put my locker next to his. They were basically like, “Yordano, this is the guy who’s going to be with you for the next three years, so get used to it.”

And of course Yordano don’t waste no time — he’s starting in on me right on that day. He’s like, “Oh, man, three years? You old for a three-year contract,” that sort of thing. It’s funny, man. I’ll laugh even now, just thinking about it.

I think I was a good match for Yordano, because I knew that his jokes … that’s just his way. I give up a home run, and what is it? It’s Yordano, in my ear, he’s like, “Edinson, man, wow — you see how far that ball go? I lost track, it’s so far. Did you see?” Just stuff that no one else would get away with. I could take it — I know how to laugh at that stuff. And Yordano, he loved to give it … but he couldn’t take it, man. Not even a little. Haha. I say that out of love. That’s my guy. But you’d tease him back, he gets very mad. Just for a minute or two, and then he snaps out of it and is back to Yordano. But he don’t like it. We had — it’s a good chemistry, you know what I mean? He is the young-guy joker, maybe he is secretly a little sensitive, you know. And I’m the veteran, just grinning about all of this next to him, with the thick skin. Vólquez and Ventura. It’s like, that was our routine.

O.K., here’s a story, it’s classic Yordano: One day he buy a real nice car. A real nice Lexus, fully loaded, I’ll say it’s about $100,000. And Yordano is so in love with this car, it’s almost funny. He’s telling me all about it, bragging about how it’s got this, it’s got that. You know, young kids and their cars, man. Then a couple of days later, we back at the stadium, arriving in the parking lot, and Yordano pulls up in his new ride, just as I’m pulling up. And I figure he’s going to give me some more of that new-car swag — you know, show me all of the flashy things his car’s got. But instead he just looks at me. And man … it’s like he’s mad.

I go, “What’s up, Yordano?”

And he’s still got this look. Like he’s going to accuse me of something. Like I did a crime.

He says, “What’s … THAT?” He’s heated.

“What’s what, bro?” I ask him.

That.” And he points at my car.

Right, I left one thing out of the story. A couple of days before Yordano got his car, I’d gotten a car of my own — this brand new Escalade, real nice. Real nice.

And so I’m like, “New car, bro. Just drove it up from Miami. What do you think?”

But he’s just stewing. Got nothing to say. It’s like maybe I showed him up or something. Not even trying to, just a coincidence, but you know. Boy is stewing.

So that’s that — until the next day, when we’re at the ballpark and we’re finishing up our stuff, and Yordano comes over to me. And he’s like, “Hey, bro, I got a surprise for you.”

And I say to to him, “Umm, whatchu got?”

“It’s in the parking lot. Come with me. I’ll show you.”

“O.K., bro.” And then we walk to the parking lot, and I see my Escalade….

And another Escalade, exactly the same — same color, same model and make and everything, right beside it. I can’t decide if I’m laughing or rolling my eyes or what. But Yordano, man … you’ve never seen someone smile like this.

He’s like, “What do you think, bro??? What you think???”

I’m like, “Yordano, you just spent $200,000 on two cars in two days. You — man, you actually crazy. And you got my same exact car. You know what, you a funny, crazy, stupid kid.”

But he just couldn’t stop smiling. He was so happy to have the newest car again — and to be the same as me, I think. He just wanted to do everything I do. That’s that little brother thing, you know what I’m saying?

I remember leaving the park that day, just shaking my head, over and over, like — “You crazy, Yordano. You crazy.” This crazy, petty, funny, crazy, stupid, genius, talented, crazy, big-hearted kid.

You couldn’t help it but love him.


The first hitter I faced that game was almost my last.

It’s pretty wild to think about now, but it’s true. First batter, he hits a grounder to the first base side, and so I go over to cover the bag. But we hit each other as I’m making the play — and when we make contact, my ankle twists up a little bit. At first I’m like, “Oh, no, do I gotta come out of this game now?” But the ankle holds up for the inning, and I get two more outs.

Still, though, I’m thinking there’s a good chance that that’s it for me, once they gonna take a look at me in the dugout. I really thought I might be done pitching after that first inning. So when one of the trainers comes up to me when I’m back in the dugout, and he’s like, “Edinson, let me take a look real quick….” — you know when you’re trying not to make eye contact with the teacher, if you don’t have the homework done?

It’s like that. When we’re pitching, we’re supposed to sit down a little bit and rest after we get three outs. But it’s like, I don’t want to come out of this game, man — and I’m worried that if I sit down, and don’t keep moving around, then my ankle might get a little cold. And then it’s going to be hard for me to get up and warm to pitch the next inning. So I do my best to kind of shrug off the trainer … and that’s what I end up doing between each of those first few innings in the dugout. I’m almost playing this game of cat and mouse, trying to keep myself up and moving and warm, and not get examined or nothing.

And it works — they let me go for a few more innings, and I’m pitching alright. But then about the end of the fourth inning, they’re like, “Edinson, I think that’s it for you, let’s rest this ankle.” And I told them, “Nah, man, let’s just tape it up. Let’s tape it. It’s already starting to feel better. Tape it up real good, and I be ready to go back out.” And I don’t mean it like I’m being a tough guy — maybe another game, I’d let them take a look. But I’m not getting pulled like that, for an ankle, on Yordano’s day, you know what I’m saying? And the funniest thing is, we all so focused on my ankle, those first few innings … no one’s even noticing what’s going on.

Still no hits.


People think that when you come from nothing, come from nowhere in a poor country, and then suddenly you getting paid millions of dollars to play baseball in the States — they thinking, Hey man, that sounds really nice. Really easy. I’ll take it. But it ain’t easy. It’s hard, in a lot of ways, is the truth about it. You come from the DR, and you been poor your whole life, and now it’s $5 million in your bank account? Well, of course, that’s a blessing. But also that can do things to you. You think you might have more friends now, with your money — but the truth is, you lose friends. It’s hard to know who to trust. And it’s these bad people, man … they love to hang around with young athletes, who grew up poor and are new to their money, and take advantage of them.

And it’s tough, because as a baseball player, you’re already living these two lives: on the field, and off the field. But then as a young Dominican player, you also have even another two lives to worry about: You have your life in the States, and then your life back home. And I’m telling you, man, it’s just hard for these kids. You back in the DR, now, in the offseason, with all this fame — and now there aren’t all these rules, like in the States, and you got no team obligations, and you the only one with money … it can mess you up, you know what I’m saying? No matter how good of a person you are. And Yordano, man, he’s one of the best people you’ll ever meet. But he’s human, man. He was human.

And so I knew that it’s my job to mentor him.

I would show him tough love when I had to. I’m a pretty … I think the phrase is, a “straight-edge” guy? I’ve got a family, I have a daughter, I have a wife — and so I don’t hang out a lot outside on the streets, or going to the club. It’s just not for me, not for my lifestyle. And I think that’s why the team choose me, maybe, for this job, with Yordano. Because he loved that stuff, and sometimes it’s not all good. And also sometimes it’s good, yes: Young guy, he should hang out with friends, do his thing. But in the right way, and at the right time — not over and over again, same thing this night as the night before, and the night before that. And so maybe I would get mad at him sometimes for this. I’d say, “Little bro, little bro — I want you to have as much fun as possible outside of baseball. But you have to know what to keep outside of baseball.”

We would have talks, sometimes. About this and that. He’d be making some friends where it’s like, Yordano, why you hanging out with these friends? They no good for you. He’d be renting this big house, these big bedrooms and all of that, where it’s like, Yordano, why you rent this house? Why you need all these big rooms, just one guy? And like I said, he’d buy all these cars, too many, man, where it’s like, Yordano, why you got too many cars? You can’t even drive them all at the same time.

It’s tough, though, when you mentoring someone at that age. Because Yordano, if you think about it, that’s my teammate. We work together. He’s a grown man. But then you think about it some more, and yeah, he’s grown, but he’s in this brand-new situation, with this new money and new people and new expectations and new things. And I think — especially looking back — you just kind of realize … you know, wow.

He was just a kid, man.


“One more inning,” that’s what I kept saying to them.

Pitch it good, get three outs, and then — after every inning — go back to the dugout, and right back into making my case to the trainers. “One more inning, guys, that’s it,” I’m telling them. I’m like a pitcher on the mound, and then I’m a lawyer in the dugout. It’s funny.

And I gotta say this: It’s like I had some help out there that day. I don’t know if you believe in that stuff or not, but for me, it was like Yordano … I don’t know, but I think my little bro might have been out there helping. I’m serious. All of these bad pitches I was throwing … bad pitches, not like me, missing my spots, right in the dirt. And these guys, I swear — they were swinging and missing at every one of them. And it’s like — I’m on the mound, and it’s going through my head, right as I pitch, you know, “Oh, that’s a bad pitch, bro. Bro, what are you doing? How do you swing at that?” But these guys … they just kept swinging. And don’t get me wrong, I’ll take it. I’ll take it all day. But baseball ain’t like that, man. This was like — it was like my lucky game.

This was something special.

Sixth inning, I have this beautiful inning. Three outs, all quick ones, maybe it’s five, six pitches. Wow, that inning — it was good for me. I was in so much pain, but that rest might have saved me. Saved my pitch count too. Seventh inning, they try to pull me again. I’m like, “Are you kidding? You see that last inning? That was a good one, I gotta keep going now.” Eighth inning — man, after the eighth inning, let me tell you this. I just go up to the trainers, and I tell them, “It’s not about a no-hitter today. I don’t care about a no-hitter. I don’t know if I’m going to throw one. I might, I might not. But I need three more outs. I need three more outs to finish this game, and I have to get them. I’m going to do that.”

I didn’t say his name, but I knew I didn’t have to. They all know what I’m saying, you know? It’s not my day today. It’s Yordano’s day.

And I’m going to be there at the end of it.


I found out that Yordano died on the TV.

My brother and a friend both had texted me, early in the morning, “You see what happened with Yordano?” And I was like, “Nah, I wasn’t with him.” I’m thinking they think Yordano is with me, since he was supposed to be coming to stay at my house for some training. But that wasn’t now — that was going to be in a couple of days. So I had no idea what they were talking about. As soon as they realize I don’t know, they like, “Ayee, turn the TV on, turn the news on, go put it on now.”

And that’s when I see.

It was just, like, “Nah … he dead? From a car crash? Nah, he isn’t. He isn’t dead dead. They ain’t talking about Yordano, man. Nah. That’s unreal.” I didn’t believe it. And I got friends calling me, family calling me, other players calling me — and man, I don’t even know what to say, because I just don’t even believe it. Like, as they all calling me, I’m trying to call him. That’s the first thing I do when I hear the news. I’m just trying to call Yordano on his phone, so he can tell me that it’s this big mistake, or a bad joke. Or, I don’t know … maybe he got into trouble, man. But he ain’t dead. So I’m just calling him, over and over, with the news on — watching about how he die and waiting for him to pick up.

But he don’t pick up.

What hurts a lot, in this moment, and why I think it’s hard at first for me to be like, “Oh yeah, it’s true, he dead,” is because I knew how much better Yordano been doing. Maybe not in big ways where all of these people going to notice, but little ways, where I know as the big brother, O.K., little bro is figuring it out. He’s gonna be alright. And not just alright, man. Better than that even.

And that’s why it’s so hard to believe at first. Because you hear the news, and it’s like, Nah man — he grew. He grew. Yordano, he growing up now. He about to be one of the best pitchers in baseball next season. That’s — it’s just, that’s what’s gonna happen. So let’s talk about the next thing. Because Yordano ain’t dead. That don’t make sense. I’ve seen him trying to manage his money a little better, I’ve seen him wanting to come work out with me in the off-season instead of staying up late at the clubs — seen all of that. So it’s like, Don’t show me some TV station saying that kid is dead. Don’t show me that.

But they keep showing it, and they keep showing it.

And I know it’s true.


I gave everything I got in that last inning.

First guy, it’s a strikeout. O.K., I’ve still got my stuff, even it’s late in the game, and on this bum ankle. It’s one out now. Maybe we do that again.

Second guy, it’s another strikeout. So now we one out away.

Owings up to bat. People want to know if I was nervous on the last out — nah man. Come on, bro. Haha. That’s for the fans, I think, to get nervous. That’s why we love the fans. They the ones who get the most nervous, actually, if you think about it. They out there on pins and needles for the last out, wanting a no-hitter. And you feed off that. And the guys behind me, I think they’re maybe getting a little nervous, too — don’t want to make any bad plays, or do something stupid. But me? No, I wasn’t nervous. I’m just trying to focus and get this guy. Not out here trying to savor no moment or nothing. It gets to that last out, man, and you just want it over with. You just, like, give me my no-hitter.

And then I got it.

Strikeout, swinging in the dirt. J.T. makes the throw to Justin. Wait — that’s it. It’s over.

What can you say? Game over, no-hitter, 3–0.

3–0, man. Yordano wore number 30.

It’s unbelievable, really.

Before the game, I’d written a little something on the mound. Ace Ventura. You know, like in the movie. That’s what we called him. Because he was our ace, man. That’s what he was, and that’s what he was going to be, and everyone knew it. That kid was going to be an ace in this league for a very long time — something special. And now he gone … and it’s no changing that. Not even a no-hitter on his birthday is changing that.

But just because he gone, that don’t mean he isn’t there.

And man it was so loud after that last out. The fans, my teammates, the stadium — it’s like, “Vólquez! Vólquez! Vólquez!” All I hear though, in my head, is Yordano. I hear him like he’s right beside me, see him like he’s right on the mound, right in the spot where I scribbled his name.

He’s looking at me like he’s up to no good. Got this big-ass smirk.

And then he says it. He says it calmly, as if it ain’t nothing — just like I imagined: “It’s about time!” He says. “It’s about time, Edinson. About time you get a no-no. What were you waiting for?”

But then he stops smirking. And for a moment … maybe not even more than a few seconds … he starts smiling. For a moment, even Yordano, the joker — he can’t make a joke. He’s too happy for me.

“I’m proud of you, Big Brother,” he says.

He gives me a hug — this long, heavy hug. It’s like he’s really hugging me, like he’s really there.

“Happy birthday,” I tell him. “You 26 now.” And now I’m smiling, too. “You an old man.”

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