27 Sep Remembering Jose Fernandez
Jose Fernandez last pitched on Tuesday, September 20th in front of a sizable hometown crowd at Marlins Park in Miami. Attendance was up that day (as was the norm for whenever Fernandez took the ball), and the young righthander dazzled against the Nationals (as was the norm for whenever he pitched at home).
“We may or may not see Jose again in 2016” the announcer said via the broadcast. The 24 year-old was still on somewhat of an innings limit after his Tommy John surgery, but with two on and two out in the top of the eighth, the Marlins’ ace bared down against the MLB’s leading hitter, Daniel Murphy. “What a way this would be to go out” he said having no way of knowing Fernandez was about to record the final out of his life.
Jose’s family was in attendance that day too, “Mom’s on her feet. Grandma is on her feet. Much of Marlins’ Park is coming to its feet.” Fernandez delivered the 1-2 pitch and got Murphy to roll over to the second baseman, Dee Gordon before exiting to a roaring crowd in Miami and capping off an eight inning, three-hit shutout with 12 strikeouts.
I really didn’t want to write this column; partly because I still don’t want to believe it’s true and partly because I don’t know what there is left to say. Jose Fernandez was taken from this world far too soon, and the pain of this loss has had a ripple effect throughout the entire baseball community. He was one of the five-best pitchers in baseball; a fearless competitor with electric stuff that was essentially the unbeatable “Final Boss” at the end of a videogame when he pitched at home for Marlins fans. Losing a generational talent like Jose in one thing, but in a way, I don’t think baseball will ever fully recover from losing a human being like him.
Fernandez tried defecting from Cuba four times before he successfully reached the United States in 2008. He saved his mother who had fallen into the ocean while making their voyage, and was later reunited with his Grandmother after six years apart when the Marlins were able to get her a two-year visa. He became an American citizen, and was one of the leading players spending time with U.S. soldiers during the Fort Bragg game.
Fernandez was a great young ambassador for the game of baseball and was a hero to countless Latin born baseball fans with big league dreams. Jose had a vibrant personality and a magnetic smile, but I think what a lot of us will miss most about him is his incomparable love for this game.
Anyone who has read my writing over the years has probably realized I have a deep appreciation for anything that keeps you young: coming-of-age stories, punk rock, and of course, baseball. Jose Fernandez was the epitome of youthful exuberance on the diamond, and was the personification of the love of the game. The wound from his untimely passing is still raw with baseball fans all over the world, and the scar from Saturday may never completely heal; however, it will fade over time. Today was hard, but tomorrow will be better. Jose would not have wanted the game he loved so dearly to come to a halt without him, and I truly believe that. So we play on.
Rest in peace, Jose. The game will never forget you.