On Sept. 25, the world felt the shock of the sudden and unexpected death of Miami Marlins’ ace, Jose Fernandez. At age 24, Fernandez was not only regarded as one of the best young players in the game, but also one of the best players in Major League Baseball. After being picked 14th overall in the 2011 MLB draft, Fernandez quickly rose through the ranks of the minor leagues until he reached the big leagues. On the day Fernandez passed away, New York Mets manager Terry Collins said, “When the first pitch [that I saw him throw] left his hand, the first thought [was] ‘Oh, wow, this is something special.’” By the time of his death, he had arguably the best career statistics of a 24-year-old pitcher to date. The city of Miami and the entirety of the MLB considered Fernandez a star. His teammates, family, community and baseball fans everywhere loved the young athlete.
His family and friends, of course, had a tremendously difficult time dealing with the tragedy. Fernandez cared deeply for all of his family, particularly his mother and grandmother. To add more devastation to the tragedy, Fernandez will miss the birth of his son. He was extremely excited to begin the next chapter of his life as a father, as he said in an Instagram post just days before his death. His friends remember him as a vivacious, happy and energetic man. Many of his close friends were his teammates, who loved him like a brother. All of the Marlins had difficulty playing again after the accident, as evident by the overwhelming emotion each player displayed while taking the field.
Miami Marlins’ second baseman Dee Gordon honored his fallen teammate and best friend in perhaps the most spectacular way possible that night following his death. He, along with the rest of the Marlins, wore the number 16 and the name Fernandez on their jersies. After an emotional pre-game ceremony, the game began. Gordon, a left-handed batter, stepped into the right-handed batter’s box and watched the first pitch go by while doing a perfect imitation of Fernandez’s batting stance. He then switched back to the left-handed batter’s box. After watching one more pitch go by, Gordon belted a home run into the right field seats. As he crossed home plate, he looked up with tears in his eyes and pointed to the sky. There was no better way to pay tribute to his friend and the emotions from everyone in the stadium certainly agreed.
Fernandez was more than just a baseball player. He was one of the faces of the next generation of the MLB, exhibiting a passion and love for the game like no other.
The Cuban-American community also idolized Fernandez as a symbol of the American Dream. He was born in Cuba and aspired to playing Major League Baseball at just eight years old. To achieve a better life and reach his MLB goal, Fernandez tried unsuccessfully to defect from Cuba three times and even served time in prison at the age of 14 for one of these attempts. On the fourth attempt at 15 years old, he made it safely to the United States. Fernandez created an amazing life for himself, perfectly embodying the American Dream. He meant so much to the Cuban-American community because of the difficult and dangerous journey he overcame to defect from Cuba, the success he achieved and the genuine person he was.
Fernandez’s loss has come as a horrible shock to all. He touched so many lives in his short time on earth and his legacy both on and off the field will live on. Summed up, as Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said in a recent statement, “He was one of our game’s great young stars who made a dramatic impact on and off the field since his debut in 2013.”