KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- As Chris Young was churning his way through the New York Mets' lineup in the 12th, 13th and 14th innings of World Series Game 1 Tuesday night, the human side of him was dealing with a sense of emptiness that only a child who has lost a parent can fully understand.
Putting one foot in front of the other has been a day-to-day proposition of late. Young lost his father, Charles, to cancer in late September, and in some respects he finds sanctuary at the ballpark. But even in the heat of competition, barely a moment passes when his mind doesn't flash to some piece of advice or guidance to help him navigate the rough patches.
It's as if an angel is resting on his shoulder, forging a path to help him cope and compete.
"Almost every inning tonight I was thinking about my dad and hearing his voice," Young said after Kansas City's 5-4, 14-inning victory. "Any time I lose focus, I hear my dad in my head saying, 'Concentrate. Focus on what you need to do to help this club win.' He's with me constantly. It's still fresh for me, and tonight brought back a tough night I went through a month ago. Words can't describe the pain I feel for Eddy tonight."
Young was referring to Kansas City pitcher Edinson Volquez, who started Game 1 on the same day his father passed away in the Dominican Republic. In the coming days and weeks, Volquez will rely on the friendship of his fellow Royals to help him through the despair. Two Kansas City players in particular can relate to him in a way that transcends team colors or a shared desire to spray champagne.
Kansas City third baseman Mike Moustakas lost his mother, Connie, to cancer in August -- barely a month before Charles Young's death. Weeks before Volquez's personal tragedy, his two teammates came to grips with the challenge of having to tunnel their way through personal loss.
"I can't put words to it," Royals pitcher Danny Duffy said. "I'm very lucky to have a great set of parents who are healthy. I feel extremely blessed that they're here and they can come watch me play. I can't imagine what these guys have gone through.
"They need to know in the back of their minds that there are about 55 people in this clubhouse that would do anything for them. We all stand together when something like this happens. It's so sad. Volquy is going to be missed for the next couple of days, and whenever he decides to come back, we're going to be waiting for him with open arms."
The news broke via ESPN Deportes shortly before the Royals and Mets took the field for Game 1: Daniel Volquez, a mechanic in the Dominican Republic, had died of complications related to heart disease at age 63. Although the report said that Volquez had learned the news on his way to Kauffman Stadium, Royals manager Ned Yost provided a different version of events to writers after the game.
Yost said the Royals adhered to the wishes of Volquez's family and declined to tell him what had transpired in the Dominican before he took the mound. The Royals had Young on alert as a potential Plan B starter. But after Royals officials spoke with the family, the team elected to stick with Volquez.
"We found out about an hour before, and we said, 'What do you want us to do?'" Yost said. "And the family said, 'We don't want you to tell him. We want him to pitch this game.' We said, 'If that's what you want, we'll do exactly what you want.'
"The whole time, Eddy was out there pitching his tail off and I just kept thinking, 'His dad is watching him. It's his first start in a World Series game, and his dad is watching him.' It was hard for me to know what I did and see him compete the way he was competing."
Volquez, who has been Kansas City's most reliable starter in the postseason, is also one of the most effervescent and entertaining athletes you'll find. After beating Toronto in the Division Series, he revealed that he had strayed from his initial game plan to bust the Blue Jays inside because he had felt "sexy" throwing down and away during a pregame session in the bullpen. He's that likable, approachable and funny on a daily basis.
Yost said he watched Volquez in Game 1, and the pitcher's body language and demeanor suggested he was oblivious to the surrounding circumstances.
"I was really monitoring him, and he was happy and upbeat," Yost said. "He was sitting over there [in the dugout] talking to all of his friends, and I'm like, 'OK, he doesn't know anything.'"
Volquez's evening ended after six innings and 78 pitches, when he departed with Kansas City trailing 3-1. According to Yost and other members of the Royals, Volquez's wife and children were on hand to greet the pitcher when he entered the clubhouse after the game. Yost said general manager Dayton Moore ushered the family into the manager's office and closed the door so they could have some private time.
"You could tell he was devastated," pitcher Jeremy Guthrie said. "I've never seen him like that before. He was very subdued, very quiet. You could tell he was in a lot of emotional pain. I just gave him a pat on the back and said, 'We're thinking of you, and we're praying for you and your family.'"
When reporters entered the home clubhouse after the game, Volquez and his family had already departed.
The game still had to be played, of course, and Kansas City's bullpen picked up the mantle for the team's valiant starter. Duffy pitched two-thirds of a scoreless inning, and Kelvin Herrera, Luke Hochevar, Wade Davis and Ryan Madson combined to allow a mere one unearned run over 4 1/3 innings before Yost finally summoned Young for however long it would take.
Over three innings and 53 pitches, Young added another gem to an already impressive postseason portfolio. In the 12th, Young fanned Daniel Murphy, Yoenis Cespedes and Lucas Duda in succession. He even cracked the 90 mph barrier, a feat that was far more impressive to observers who have labeled him a soft-tosser than to Young himself.
"It's the World Series," Young said. "If you were in the World Series, you'd be throwing harder, too. If you've been around me, you know I don't care about velocity. It's the life on the ball. I couldn't care less about velocity. I care about results, and tonight, they were good."
The performance was good enough for Young to cruise through three scoreless innings, pick up the victory and shave his postseason ERA to 2.31, his WHIP to 0.94 and his batting average against to .154. All while pitching with a heavy heart.
"My goodness," Duffy said in admiration. "C.Y. is the ultimate competitor, man. A lot of things happen in a game like this, with the magnitude that it is, and some things can get lost in translation. But that guy took center stage tonight. I couldn't be prouder to call him a teammate and a friend."
The 25 players in a winning clubhouse routinely bond through road trips, injuries and all the other obstacles they encounter through the course of a seven- or eight-month season. The Royals have grown tighter and more determined while taking their cue from grief-stricken teammates who've risen to the occasion in a way that's almost hard to comprehend.
As Chris Young, Mike Moustakas and now Edinson Volquez deal with the heartache, they can take solace in the company of friends. The Royals have overcome so much to get here. Win or lose, they're all in this together.