by Josh Golden
On the morning of September 25, 2016 the world received some tragic news. A young Cuban baseball player for the Miami Marlins named Jose Fernandez died in a boating accident at the age of 24. Fernandez and two of his friends took his 32-foot long fishing boat out on the Miami shoreline at about 3 am Sunday morning, an idea which was ill advised by friends and Jose’s teammates. According to teammate Marcell Ozuna, who was invited on the boat, Jose “was crazy about that boat and loved being out on the water”. Jose’s boat crashed into a jetty off the shore of Miami, causing the death of him and his two friends.
Jose Fernandez was a spectacular pitcher for the Marlins and one of the rising stars of the MLB. Jose had been pitching in the MLB for four years and had an ERA (earned run average per nine inning) under three for all four years of his career. This year, he made the MLB All-Star game in San Diego and pitched 1.1 innings, giving up a run and striking out Mike Trout, another one of the MLB’s young stars.
Jose’s death has had a large impact on Major League Baseball. Many MLB teams honored the fallen star by hanging his jersey in their dugout. A few of the teams to do that were the New York Mets (who played the Marlins in Miami on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday), Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, and many more. In addition, every game on Sunday had a moment of silence to honor Miami’s hero. But perhaps the most touching tribute to Jose came on Tuesday night, when St. Louis Cardinals’ shortstop and Jose’s childhood friend Aledmys Diaz, hit his first career grand slam to give his team the lead that they would hold for the remainder of the game. This was Diaz first game in a few days because he was granted permission to return to Cuba for Fernandez’s memorial service. After his grand slam, Diaz pointed up to the sky to honor his fallen friend in a touching moment for Major League Baseball, the city of Miami, and the entire country of Cuba.
As expected, the Miami Marlins did the most to honor their ace. On Sunday, the day of Jose’s death, they cancelled their home game with the Atlanta Braves because they thought it would be too hard to play so soon after his death. They played the next day at home versus the New York Mets in an emotion filled game for both teams. Jose was supposed to start that game, making it an even more emotional game for everyone.
The mourning began before the game, with a heartfelt video shown in Fernandez’s memory and a moment of silence for him before the national anthem. Also, all of the Marlins players wore the number 16, on their hats, and put it on the pitcher’s mound in his honor. In the bottom of the first inning, the first hitter for the Marlins, Dee Gordon, wore Jose’s helmet and stood right handed for the first pitch of the at bat in his honor. Two pitches later, Gordon hit his first home run of the year. He later said that “I told the boys, ‘If ya’ll don’t believe in god, you might as well start.’ I ain’t ever hit a ball that far, even in batting practice. For that to happen today, we had some help.” The Marlins would go on to beat the Mets 7-3. After the game, all of Miami’s players and coaches placed their caps on Jose’s mound and circled around it for one last moment of silence.