KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Royals will open this year's FanFest on Friday with a somber tone, given the recent death of starting pitcher Yordano Ventura.
Whether or not to hold this year's fan gathering wasn't a decision that's been taken lightly. One Royals executive told FOX 4 News there was a moment where the team wondered if canceling FanFest might be appropriate, in the light of Ventura's death on Sunday morning. Instead, when baseball believers come to Bartle Hall beginning on Friday, the beloved right-hander will be front and center.
For now, the hum of compressors and the whirring of setup equipment echoes throughout the 300,000 square foot convention hall, as stages and attractions are prepared for the public. When the dust settles, Ventura's likeness will be everywhere, serving as a means of comfort for grieving Royals fans.
"The physical tribute of his life at FanFest is the big thing," Toby Cook, Royals Vice-President for publicity, told FOX 4 News on Wednesday
Cook said one area of Bartle Hall will include huge posters with Ace's likeness, where fans are encouraged to write out their tributes to Yordano.
"It really will be the gathering space for people to remember him for the first time for those who didn't go out to the stadium and just watched it all unfold on TV," Cook said.
Fans continue to visit the makeshift memorial that's continued to grow outside Kauffman Stadium Gate C. Cook said some items from that collection of keepsakes will be on display at Royals FanFest. Others will go to the Royals Hall of Fame, while the Ventura family will be given any item of their choosing.
Cook said the franchise also wondered if players would be available to attend FanFest, where they've traditionally rubbed elbows with thousands of fans. Many team personnel, including Royals General Manager Dayton Moore, have yet to return from the Dominican Republic, where Ventura's funeral was held on Tuesday.
"We're not going to forget. There will be a reminder of Yordano Ventura every hour on the hour throughout the two-day event," Cook said.
FanFest will begin Friday at 12 p.m., and continue through Saturday evening. The first two hours each day will be reserved for Royals season ticket holders. Cook said FanFest tickets are still available for purchase via the team's website.