The past 48 hours for Miami and the entire sports world have been more painful than ever. The loss of José Fernández has broken the hearts of not only myself, but millions of others; most of which have never had the pleasure of meeting him personally. I know this has absolutely nothing to do with Boston sports, but it’s far too important to skip over.
Sunday morning, September 25th, we found out that José Fernández died in a boat accident and after that the world was not the same. His smile was infectious, as was his love for the game, his friends, and most of all his family. For those who don’t know his background story, this man is a Cuban native who tried multiple times to get out of the corrupt country, a few of which were unsuccessful and landed him in prison. When he finally made it out and began the journey to the United States, his mother fell overboard in the middle of the ocean. Doing what any good son would do, he dove in and saved her. Fast forward to his professional career, Fernández won the 2013 National League Rookie of the Year award after posting numbers unheard of for someone his age, a mere 21 years old at the time. He received 26 out of 30 first place ballots which solidified his win. Not only that, but he was an All-Star, and a fan favorite at that. One of my favorite memories of him was him saying he was only going to pitch fast balls to David Ortiz during his final All-Star game. Real recognize real. And how could I forget the most iconic MLB gif to ever circulate the internet…
Yes Tulo, yes he did.
Miami is not a great sports town, but they did have the pleasure of having this great player representing South Beach. But unfortunately he’s gone, far too soon. The reaction across the league was as heartbreaking as the tragedy itself. Seeing Big Papi cry the way he did during the moment of silence before the Red Sox finished off their series with Tampa shattered my heart to pieces, as if it wasn’t already. But tonight… Tonight was something I’ll never forget.
The strength of this Marlins team is beyond words. The fact they could play a 9-inning game tonight was unreal. I told myself I could handle watching everything leading up to tonights game against the Mets, but I was so wrong. Sitting on my couch, watching the entire bench kneel before the pitchers mound writing the number 16 in the clay while all wearing his jersey was too much. Seeing all the players in pain after the loss of their brother was too much. I was in tears within seconds. And then it happened. Something I prayed would happen. Dee Gordon, one of the closest to Fernández was the leadoff batter for Miami tonight and honored his friend right away. Gordon is a lefty hitter, but took the first pitch from the right batters box, wearing the helmet of José. Two pitches later… This is something you’d see in a movie. Dee Gordon hits his first home run of the year, wearing his best friend’s number, bawling as he rounds the bases. There was no celebration needed from him, everyone knew it wasn’t necessary. Before being bombarded by his team, he pounded his heart and pointed to the sky, and that was all I needed to completely lose it.
I cannot believe this team was able to play tonight, but they did and they ended up beating New York 7-3. Just like Giancarlo Stanton said before the game, they were going to find a way to do this. And they did.
Even now writing this, I’m struggling to keep it together. The loss of a life is never easy, but when you sit and think about all the potential this young man had, you can’t help but feel it in the pit of your stomach. He was 24. He had a family. He was about to have a new one with his girlfriend after announcing they were expecting a baby. He was loved by all. The number 16 will forever have a place in the city of Miami’s heart, after the team announced today that “no one else will ever wear the number 16.” The name José Fernández will forever hold a place in the heart of Major League Baseball; players, coaches, and executives alike.
The number, the name, the smile. It all will never be forgotten. Rest in absolute paradise, José Fernández.