Three years ago, the Major League Baseball world was introduced to Cuban-born pitcher named Jose Fernandez. He made his major league debut on Apr. 7, 2013 and in a short period of time went from National League (NL) being Rookie of the Year in 2013 to a two-time All-Star that had a 38-17 early into his career. He was also beginning to establish a family of his own. Things look good for a man who found a way to escape a torrid life of his native land and then it was all taken in the blink of an eye at the start of last week.
Last Sunday, Fernandez passed away in a serious boating accident off the coast of Miami Beach. He was just 24 years old.
Fernandez was laid to rest in a private bilingual funeral service for 300 family, friends, current and former Marlins players and executives this past Thursday at St. Brendan Catholic Church that lasted over two hours which celebrated his dynamic personality.
“I think the most important thing is that he brought this community together around our game in a way that we haven’t seen with an individual player in a very long time,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said to ESPN’s Pedro Gomez outside of the Mass on Thursday.
“Obviously, this is a tremendous loss for Jose’s family, for the Marlins organization, but really for all of baseball. He was that important to the game. He had an infectious way about him…the way he played the game on the field, and I think people found that enthusiasm to be just really appealing.”
Two other Miami residents in Emilio Jesus Macias and Eduardo Rivero, ages 27 and 25 respectably also lost their lives in the accident when the 32-foot fishing boat hit a jetty near Government Cut channel near Miami in the early hours of this past Sunday morning, according to a report from the Miami-Dade County Medical examiner’s office.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC), which is at the head of the investigation of the crash said that the boat was found in the early hours of Sunday morning at 3:30 a.m. during a routine patrol by the Coast Guard.
Lorenzo Veloz of the FFWCC also said that speed did have a factor in the deadly crash.
Investigators said that no drugs or alcohol were involved in the crash, but all three of the men on the boat were not wearing safety life vest.
The saddest part of this whole thing is that the girlfriend of Fernandez was pregnant. Recently he had post on his Instagram page @jofez16, “I’m so glad you came into my life. I’m ready for where this journey is gonna take us together. #familyfirst.”
While there was no foul play involved in the initial findings, it was reported by anchor Robin Meade on CNN Headline News’ “Moring Express with Robin Meade” on Wednesday that Fernandez was upset about something the night of the boat crash.
Fernandez’s friend Will Bernal posted text messages that were retrieved via Instagram that read, “Try to keep him close to shore if you go out. Trust me it’s not time yet. I know but try to keep Jose cool, tell him what I said.”
Meade said that Bernal has stated that the loss of his friends has been such a nightmare that he is unable to wake up from.
Local media reports said that Fernandez was able to be identified after the crash because his checkbook and a bag of signed baseballs washed to shore and they were found not too far from the accident.
The loss of Fernandez so suddenly hit his teammates and manager Don Mattingly very hard.
“When you watch kids play little league, that’s the joy Jose played with,” Mattingly said.
The team returned to action on Monday night versus the New York Mets and they won the game 7-3 on the strength of second baseman Dee Gordon’s home run to lead off the bottom of the first inning and the Marlins never looked back. It was one of 14 hits the Marlins had in the contest.
In tribute to their fallen teammate, each of the Marlins players and the coaching staff wore No. 16 jerseys in Fernandez’s honor.
Slugger Giancarlo Stanton said after the game that while the homer by Gordon was unbelievable, it was not hard to explain why it happened.
“Pure emotion,” Stanton said. “There’s no other way it could be scripted, unless you’re in movie rewriting everything that just happened.”
Something even more amazing happened before the game when Mets’ manager Terry Collins led his team across the field to share hugs with many of the Marlins players. Even Marlins Hitting Coach Barry Bonds went over to each umpire and hugged them.
“It’s a tough game on the Mets too,” Mattingly said. They handled that with such class.”
It was the same kind of class and emotion that St. Louis Cardinals’ shortstop Aledmys Diaz showed this past Tuesday night when he hung a Cardinals jersey that had his friend’s name and No. 16 in the team’s dugout.
Diaz, who grew up with Fernandez learned the game from his father when they were kids in Cuba hit his first career Grand Slam in his second at bat this past Tuesday versus the Cincinnati Reds and the Cards won the game 12-5.
After the game Diaz said that the best way to honor the life his late friend is to play the game at 100 percent and have fun playing.
Along with the Marlins, the University of Miami Hurricanes will recognize Marlins’ star pitcher with a sticker on the back of their helmets that will consist of his initials “JF” along with his jersey number 16. The team whore the helmets in their contest versus their American Coastal Conference rival the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
It is that attitude that made him a star as a rookie and into a rising star that had a bright future in front of him.
Back in 2013, Fernandez’s grandmother traveled from Cuba to surprise him just before he received the Rookie of the Year Award.
As she hugged her grandson very tightly while crying tears, Fernandez said to her, “Don’t be crying here.”
To put into perspective of the kind of person the baseball world lost, Fernandez tried defecting from Cuba and failed on his first three attempts before escaping six years ago.
He was drafted by the Marlins in 2011 out of Braulio Alonso High School in Tampa, FL and on Apr. 24, 2015 he became a U.S. citizen.
“He sacrificed his left to leave an oppressed country,” former MLB player and ESPN baseball analyst Eduardo Perez said this past Sunday.Information and quotations are courtesy of 9/25/16 6:30 p.m. edition of “ABC World News Tonight” with Tom Llamas, report from Marci Gonzalez; 9/26/16 6 a.m. edition of CNN Headline News’ “Morning Express with Robin Meade,” report from Coy Wire of Bleacher Report; 9/28/16 6 a.m. CNN Headline News’ “Morning Express with Robin Meade,” report from Hines Ward, Bleacher Report contributor; 9/26/16 www.usatoday.com article “Identities of Men Killed in Jose Fernandez Boat Crash Released,” by Alan Gomez; www.espn.go.com/mlb/team/_/name/mia/miami-marlins; http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jose_Fernandez.