Jose Fernandez Dies
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In the early morning on Sunday, September 25, star baseball pitcher Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating accident. He was 24.
According to CNN, Fernandez, who pitched for the Miami Marlins, and two others were killed when the boat slammed into a small pier and then flipped over.
Fernandez’s journey to be one of the best major league baseball pitchers at this time started before reaching the United States. As a teenager in Cuba, he was jailed for a year after trying to illegally leave the country. He was able to defect on his fourth try. On the journey to the USA, his mother fell off the boat they were riding on. Fernandez dove into the water and saved her despite eight foot high waves.
“I was afraid that I was going to die,” Fernandez said about saving his mother in an ESPN article.
Fernandez was drafted by the Marlins in 2011, and made his MLB debut two years later, winning the 2013 Rookie of the Year award and making the all-star team that same season. He had surgery on his elbow in 2014; he missed the rest of the season and the first half of the 2015 season as a result. This season he had stayed healthy for the majority of the season, setting career highs in both games started and innings pitched, as well as making the all-star team.
After the news broke, the Marlins canceled their game versus the Atlanta Braves that day. Across the MLB, players, coaches, and teams sent out their thoughts and prayers to the Marlins organization, Fernandez’s family, his close friends. There was also a moment of silence before all the games that day. Two days after Fernandez’s death, childhood friend and current St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Aledmys Diaz hit a grand slam, later proclaiming that “it was for Fernandez.”
Despite the tragedy, the Marlins returned to the playing field the next day versus the New York Mets. The entire Marlins team honored Fernandez by donning uniforms that had his number 16 on the back. After an emotional national anthem that had players crying and the entire Miami team inscribing Fernandez’s initials and number on the pitcher’s mound, Dee Gordon led off the game in perfect fashion: with a home run.
Dave Van Horne and Glenn Geffner, the Marlins radio broadcasters, said that the Gordon home run might be as emotional a home run there has been since Mike Piazza hit one in the first pro sporting event in New York City after the September 11 attacks in 2001. The Marlins left all their hats and the game ball on the field after winning the game..
Names comes to mind in the wake of this sad event. Roberto Clemente, who died in a plane crash taking supplies to help Nicaragua after an earthquake there in 1972; Thurman Munson, who was also killed in a plane crash on his way home during the all-star break in 1979; and Oscar Taveras, who died in a car crash in his native Dominican Republic shortly before game five of the 2014 World Series.
Fernandez was known for his energy and passion on the field. Manager Don Mattingly said that Fernandez played the game like a Little Leaguer because he had so much fun while playing. Off the field, Fernandez was known for giving back to the community and giving money to charity.
“Fernandez had already done everything with just getting to the US. All he wanted to do then was just play the game, not work the game,” former MLB player and current ESPN analyst Eduardo Perez said about Fernandez’s youthful approach to baseball.
According to attendance records this year, more people showed up at Marlins Park for Fernandez’s starts in Miami than they did for any other Marlins starter. According to bleacherreport.com, Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna and two other teammates were offered the chance to go on the fatal boat trip by Fernandez, but all three turned down the offer.
On Wednesday, September 29, Fernandez’s body was driven by Marlins Park during the funeral procession so that teammates could be with their fallen pitcher one last time.
He may have had a short career, but it was a memorable one.