Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost, left, talks with starting pitcher Edinson Volquez after the Royals defeated the New York Mets, 7-2, to clinch the World Series on November 1, 2015, at Citi Field in New York.

Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost, left, talks with starting pitcher Edinson Volquez after the Royals defeated the New York Mets, 7-2, to clinch the World Series on November 1, 2015, at Citi Field in New York. (John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/TNS)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Amid the ongoing pandemonium at Citi Field in the wee hours of Nov. 2, 2015, the embodiment of the most resilient team in Major League Baseball playoff history stood radiant near the pitcher's mound.

That mound had become hallowed ground for Royals pitcher Edinson Volquez, who had used his spikes to subtly etch his father's initials into it.

As he had worked from there hours before, he felt a mystical sense of being looked over himself by a "lot of energy coming from the dirt, from the grass, all the way to your head."

Now the energy was arriving in more tangible waves, through teammates and family and throngs of media.

Manager Ned Yost put a hand to his face and told him how proud Volquez had made his father. Third baseman Mike Moustakas sought him out to hand over the Commissioner's Trophy and leaned into Volquez's ear and said, "I really love you, and we made our parents really proud and excited right now."

Of all the remarkable and indelible images of the 2015 postseason, perhaps none is as compelling and vivid as Volquez's face aglow as he cradled and gazed at the trophy.

He thought of the father who'd died days earlier, the father he considered "one of the greatest men."

"Unbelievable," Volquez said in the moment. "Look at that."

___

Game 5 of the World Series, replayed Thursday night on Fox Sports Kansas City, culminated the preposterous arc of a team that set numerous standards in rallying to win eight postseason games.

In seven of those, they came from behind after trailing by at least two runs at some point. Unprecedented.

In six of them, they were losing into the sixth inning. Never done before.

And in the World Series, they trailed in all five games and won three in which they trailed in the eighth inning or later. Yep, another first.

Improbable as all that seemed, it also was entirely appropriate for a team whose essence and core was one of resurgence.

From the franchise itself, which until the year before hadn't so much as been in the playoffs since 1985, to Yost - fired by Milwaukee from his previous managing job.

Perhaps most of all, that stemmed from the nucleus of key players like Alex Gordon and Moustakas and Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain and Danny Duffy and Luke Hochevar and Kendrys Morales and Chris Young and others who had endured major setbacks or debilitating injuries and doubts before they found themselves and it all coalesced.

In the case of Volquez, who had been with five other teams, he had worked through a volatile start in the Texas Rangers organization and numerous ups and downs before becoming the Royals' most reliable starter that season ... not to mention an ever-engaging and galvanizing clubhouse presence.

For all the closeness and chemistry those shared struggles had infused in the group dynamic, some were contending with more immediate personal anguish.

A day after Young's father died Sept. 26 from multiple myeloma, he threw five no-hit innings buoyed by a sense of his father's spirit that he continued to feel into the postseason.

Moustakas' mother, Connie, died from cancer and other undisclosed illnesses on Aug. 9, weeks after Moustakas had taken her the jersey from his first All-Star Game and seen her for the last time. He found comfort in reminding himself that "to her, I was always an All-Star no matter what" and leaving her tickets at will call and scratching her initials - CM - into the dirt around third base and at the plate.

And then there was Volquez, whose loss was abrupt and unexpected and complicated in an entirely different way.

___

The night before Volquez was to start Game 1 of the World Series against the New York Mets at Kauffman Stadium, he called his 65-year-old father, Danio, back home in the Dominican Republic.

First, they spoke of his father's health after a recent hospital visit for ongoing trouble with heart disease.

"'Everything's fine,' " Volquez remembered his father saying when he spoke at length about it the following spring.

Besides, baseball was what Danio wanted to talk about.

The game was a substantial part of the relationship between son and father, a mechanic who cultivated Edinson's interest in emulating countryman Pedro Martinez by videotaping all of Martinez's starts.

When he told his father he would be starting Game 1, Edinson remembered him saying, "Oh, wow," and that he couldn't wait to watch.

But by the time Volquez was to take the mound on Oct. 27, Danio had died from what Volquez later said was a heart attack.

The suddenness, though, wasn't the only harrowing aspect of what became a surreal matter.

As Yost recalled the scene in a recent interview and podcast with The Star, the Royals had just finished batting practice when general manager Dayton Moore approached him to tell him the news.

Yost's first thought was, "Oh my God, Eddie's sitting there in the locker room" thinking his father is about to watch him pitch ... and "now he's gone."

Each wanted to tell Volquez. But Volquez's wife, Roandry, and other family members asked them not to. They wanted him to pitch for his father, after all, and how could he if he knew?

It was a profound and distressing dilemma for all.

As game time approached, Yost said he kept leaving his office and walking past Volquez's locker to see if he had heard anything through social media or the grapevine. Each time, though, he'd see him joking and laughing with fellow Dominican pitchers Johnny Cueto and Yordano Ventura.

Just in case the news trickled through, Yost pulled aside Young in the weight room and confided the news in case Young was needed to start in place of Volquez or enter in long relief.

" 'I'll be ready,' " said Young, who, in fact, ended the 5-4, 14-inning victory game with three hitless innings.

Meanwhile, the news came loose. While Fox withheld the information on its broadcast, it was so widely reported on ESPN and other outlets that plenty of the 14.9 million people watching could have been aware. And many in the crowd of 40,320 likely knew as an oblivious Volquez gave up three runs in six innings.

Volquez was insistent on going back out for the seventh, Yost recalled, before Yost ended the discussion by putting a hand on his shoulder and saying, "You need to go upstairs right now."

"It was hard for me right there to hold it together," Yost said.

When Volquez returned to the clubhouse, Moore, Roandry and other family members told him the news. Volquez had to hear it repeated before he understood it, then was overcome and soon hurrying to fly home for the funeral the next day.

___

As uplifting as the pictures of Volquez on the field after Game 5 were, images of him from the funeral were agonizing.

Sleep-deprived and shocked, pierced for his mother, Ana, and three sisters, that day he told The Associated Press in Santo Domingo that he didn't know if he could be ready to pitch again by Game 5.

That night, though, his mother told him Danio "wants you to pitch that game." Soon, Volquez texted pitching coach Dave Eiland that he would be ready. He took out a glove in the next few days to throw with a friend for what he figured was "about seven minutes."

Even after he returned to the team and endless hugs before Game 4 at Citi Field and affirmed he was ready, though, who could know what would happen in Game 5?

Especially after he surrendered a leadoff home run to Curtis Granderson.

But Volquez somehow was sustained by the very source of his heartache: the sensation of his father alongside and within, including in the form of initials Volquez had written on the inside of his cap.

"That was my idea: You keep everything inside," he said. "I don't have to show my teammates I was really sad, or whatever, because I don't want to pass the pain to my teammates. ... I think I did a pretty good job keeping inside all my pains."

Not to mention keeping the Mets in check, allowing only one more run and hit in his six innings to keep the Royals in range for what proved the ultimate victory.

This time, he was so emotionally drained he was ready to come out.

"He put his arms around me and said, 'Thank you,'" said Yost, later adding that Volquez "just gave everything he had."

To forever give him a place in Royals history and in the hearts of fans. While Volquez pitched only one more season for the Royals, he has retained a certain connection with them, too.

In 2017, he threw a no-hitter against Arizona on what would have been the 26th birthday of Ventura, who died in a car accident in the Dominican months before.

That morning, on Instagram, he posted a picture of himself with Ventura and wrote, "Miss you broth HBD to Ace Ventura one love."

"I was pretty sure he was with me that day," Volquez said in a phone interview with The Star a few weeks later.

Maybe a little like he felt his father with him through the grass and the dirt for Game 5 in a most poignant dimension of comeback for a team defined by that trait.

Visit The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.) at www.kansascity.com

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