When Edinson Volquez came out after six innings, his wife and children were waiting for him in the clubhouse. GM Dayton Moore gave them the use of the manager’s office, where they could be alone and discuss whatever they needed to. It still isn’t clear whether Volquez knew yet that his father had died earlier in the day—but for the small handful of Royals coaches and players that were told before the game started or found out while it was still in progress, it weighed heavily.
Volquez’s wife Roandy contacted Moore shortly before the start of the game and asked that the team not tell Edinson that 63-year-old Danio Volquez had passed away in the Dominican Republic from complications from heart disease. Moore passed the word to manager Ned Yost. Yost understands that some might think it’s weird to keep that kind of news from a person, but he never hesitated.
“I don’t feel bad,” Yost said. “I love Eddie Volquez and if his family asked me to do something, I’m going to do it.”
Yost did have to tell one player. On the chance Volquez found out about his father and decided he couldn’t pitch, the Royals needed a backup starter. That fell to Chris Young, in line to start Game 4. Young, Yost knew, had lost his own father, to cancer, on Sept. 26. Young went out the next day and pitched before flying home to be with his family.
It’s been a rough couple of months for the Royals’ extended family. Mike Moustakas’s mother passed away in August from cancer—he still writes her initials on his glove and scratches them into the dirt—and though he told the entire team the next day, the media and public didn’t know about it until Moutakas chose to reveal her death in an interview more than a month later. The Royals clubhouse is good at keeping personal business personal, and at closing ranks around those it wants to protect.
(The question of what Volquez knew and when is still open, though it’ll surely be cleared up next time he speaks with the media. Both Yost and Young said they weren’t sure if he already knew. The narrative that’s emerging is that he had no idea until after the game that his father had died, but both ESPN and the AP still insist he found out from a family member on his way to the ballpark. That’s plausible enough. And it doesn’t change the fact that some of the Royals were entrusted with what they believed to be a secret, and kept it tightly.)
Some Royals got the chance to see Volquez before he left the ballpark, with the game still going. Jeremy Guthrie said he was “devastated...very subdued, very quiet. I could tell he was in a lot of emotional pain.”
Word started to spread after Volquez left—Alex Gordon said he learned the news in the 14th inning, when Yost told the team “Let’s win this game for Volquez.”
Chris Young did get into the game, pitching three hitless innings of relief before the Royals won things in the 14th on Eric Hosmer’s sac fly. It had been about five hours since he had been told to mentally prepare himself to start if needed, because of a teammate’s personal tragedy that mirrored one that remained very raw to him.
“Almost every inning tonight I was thinking about my dad and hearing his voice,” Young said. “He’s with me constantly. It’s still fresh for me, and tonight brought back a tough night I went through a month ago.”
Everyone grieves in their own way, and the Royals have made sure their players can do so in their own time, on their own terms. After it was over, after the Royals had taken Game 1 and were celebrating in the clubhouse without the night’s starting pitcher, Volquez texted Alcides Escobar: “Thank you guys, for winning that game for me.”