Royals scout Orlando Estevez remembers son David

Anne Rogers

By Anne Rogers

There is nothing that prepares someone for losing a loved one, especially a child. Time stops, words are hard to find, and moving on to the next moment feels nearly impossible. Well-meaning texts are eventually read. Phone calls are sent to voicemail after a few rings.

So when an unfamiliar name and number popped up on Orlando Estevez’s phone Monday night, he thought hard about answering the call. Estevez, the Royals’ coordinator of Latin American scouting, lost his 21-year-old son, David, to cancer Monday morning, and the veteran baseball man was not ready to talk about anything.

But something propelled him to accept the call, and he is glad he did.

About five or six years ago, David filled in on a local baseball team participating in Major League Baseball’s RBI program and helped them reach the championship game. The players, including David, were honored at loanDepot park in Miami.

The person calling Estevez on Monday night was that team’s coach.

“David didn’t spend much time with that team, but I’ll always remember what the coach said,” Orlando said. “He said, ‘I just wanted to tell you how David touched us, how he made us smile and laugh.’ And that’s what I’ve gotten from everybody over the last couple days.

“As his father, I knew what a great kid he was,” Orlando continued. “But he touched a lot of lives, and I’m realizing it now, from all the people who have been calling me or sending messages about him. People that I don’t even remember. It’s unbelievable, the lives he touched.”

David died Monday surrounded by his family, including Orlando, his mom, Ivonne, brothers Daniel and Ryan (David’s identical twin) and sister, Lauren. His legacy lives on.

After his death, a GoFundMe was created by a family friend to help with medical and funeral expenses, but the Estevez family was adamant on redirecting those funds toward others in need. All donations will go to families “who are experiencing a battle similar to David’s and facing financial difficulty,” the GoFundMe states.

“It was very important to us,” Orlando said. “He couldn’t stand seeing the other little kids suffer when he was in the hospital. And he always wanted to help other people and other kids. We are blessed in this world that we were able to find the best treatment for David. There are a lot of families that cannot do that. So we want to help those families, and we know that’s what David would have wanted.”

When David was 3 years old, he was diagnosed with Wilms’ tumor, a rare kidney cancer that primarily affects children. Strong-willed and determined even then, he went through treatment and beat it. For the next 15 years, he was cancer-free. He lived his life “like a normal kid,” Orlando said. David played baseball through high school and followed the Royals intently; his favorite player was one of the many his dad scouted and signed as a teenager in the Dominican Republic: Salvador Perez. David was a fan of Yordano Ventura’s, too, always opting for No. 30 when he could to honor the Royals pitcher.

One of his lifelong dreams came true in the summer of 2019, when the Royals drafted him in the 40th round of the MLB Draft out of Pembroke Pines Charter High School in Florida.

“It was out of respect, but he was so happy about it,” Orlando said.

“As an organization we have all been inspired by the way Orlando has led his family through the ups and downs of David’s illness,” Royals president of baseball operations Dayton Moore said. “We have been equally inspired by David’s courage and his spirit to never quit on life. Our hearts, thoughts and prayers go out to Orlando, Ivonne, Daniel, Lauren and Ryan during this difficult and tender time in their lives.”

David also enjoyed playing golf and basketball. He loved playing fantasy sports and following the Miami Dolphins.

David’s cancer returned in the summer of 2020, and he spent the last years of his life in and out of the hospital. He went through chemotherapy, radiation and a clinical trial.

“Two things he loved were the Royals and the Dolphins,” Orlando said. “I think he waited Sunday to see the Dolphins win their game with [quarterback] Tua [Tagovailoa] and their new coaching staff. I think that’s when he said, ‘OK guys, I think it’s time for me to go to rest.’”

In the days after David’s death, Orlando has learned that his son’s smile not only brightened his life, but also countless others. And while it has not made it any easier to say goodbye, it has shown Orlando that David left a legacy of living his life with joy and strength, no matter what.

“He called me ‘Pops,’” Orlando said. “And he’d tell me how proud he was of me. And I hope he knows how proud I am of him. He was a special kid.”

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