Jose Fernandez: An Inspiration to All

On September, 25 2016 the Miami Marlins and all of baseball lost one of the brightest stars in the game. Marlins starting pitcher Jose Fernandez was tragically killed in a boating accident early Sunday morning in Miami. As I sit here writing this post, it’s hard to believe he’s actually gone. Jose was beloved by many, overcame so much, and was filled with untapped potential.

The journey to the big leagues may have been the easiest part of Fernandez’s life. Born in Cuba, he attempted to leave the island three times before finally making it to Mexico on his fourth try. During one of the voyages, Jose jumped into the water when he heard some one had fallen off the raft and was drowning. It wasn’t until he was in the water when he realized the person who had fallen in was his own mother. While jumping into the ocean to save – who he thought was a stranger – may seem like a brave act for the average person, it perfectly describes the type of impact Jose had on others.

In the days since Fernandez’s death, you can’t help but to feel for Fernandez’s teammates, the Cuban-American Community, and most of all – his Mom and Abuela. Fernandez loved his family.

“He pitched for his mother and grandmother. What a relationship. Rarely do you see a mother and a son and grandmother while in the middle of major league game reflect a relationship that was so loving and so close,”  Fernandez’s Agent and friend, Scott Boras said.

“One of his proudest moments: He called and he said, ‘I bought my mother a house.’ He wept. ‘Can you believe it?’ he said. ‘I’m this little Cuban boy and I bought my mother a home in the United States of America.”

The heartache shown on the field Monday (the first game played by the Marlins since Fernandez’s passing) left everyone in the stadium and most people at home watching on TV without a dry eye. The Marlins scaled back on the in-game entertainment during the game. During a pre-game tribute, a single trumpet performed  “Take me out to the ballgame.”

After the starting lineups were announced, only the eight position players took the field for the National Anthem. Leaving Jose’s spot on the mound empty. “I don’t even know what I did out there. I’ve never been more tired in my life after throwing 45 pitches.” quivered Adam Conley – taking the start which was originally scheduled to be for Fernandez. “That was Jose’s mound today. As the starting pitcher today, I didn’t go out there. It was Jose’s day to start,” Conley said.

Perhaps one of the most memorable home runs in Marlins history was hit this past Monday night. Dee Gordon, known for his speed and defense, was in his normal lead-off spot for the Marlins. In a tribute to Fernandez, Gordon took the first pitch of the bat batting left-handed and did his best to mimic Jose’s stance. After the first pitch, Gordon switched back to his normal right-handed stance and launched a Bartolo Colon fastball out of the park and into the upper deck of right field for his first home run of the season. As Gordon began his trip around the bases, the tears began to flow and he could barely hold it together. I ain’t never hit a ball that far, even in BP,” said Gordon, who had his best game of the season at the plate. “I told the boys, ‘If you all don’t believe in God, you better start.’ For that to happen today, we had some help.”

Everyone will miss Jose Fernandez. The Marlins organization, the Marlins’ fans, the city of Miami, and many Cuban-Americans. For the Cuban-American people, Jose was more than just another baseball player. He was a sign of hope. If a high school aged kid could escape from the oppressive Cuban regime and make it, then anyone could. Eduardo Perez had an emotional interview on ESPN when asked about Fernandez and how much he meant to the Cuban-American community.

Perez was not alone. Sports personality Dan Le Batard also got choked up describing Fernandez’s legacy and what he meant.

Jose Fernandez’s legacy and what he meant to baseball, the Marlins, and the community will not be forgotten. Marlins’ owner Jeffery Loria has already stated that Fernandez’s number 16 won’t be worn again and other tributes are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.

ESPN’s Buster Olney makes the case for Jose Fernandez to win the NL CY Young award.

As Fernandez is laid to rest we focus on the joy he had for the game, his huge smile, and his constant will to learn and be the best. Not everyone plays the game of baseball the right way or lives life to the fullest, but we can all say without a shadow of a doubt – Jose Fernandez did just that.

You’ll be missed. #JDF16

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