November 4, 2016

José Fernández’s Death

Gideon Fox ‘18

The tragic passing of Miami Marlins pitcher José Fernández was a shock to everyone. Since being drafted by Miami in 2013, he gained stardom and quickly established himself as the ace of their pitching rotation. In a 2016 CBS Sports ranking of the top 30 starting pitchers in Major League Baseball, Fernández was ranked tenth.
After having Tommy John surgery, a procedure on the ligament in the elbow, in May 2014, Fernández came back stronger than anyone could have expected. In just his first game back, he struck out six and even hit a home run. After that, people knew what he could bring to the table. He was on track to be among the best pitchers of his generation.
An expectant father, Fernández and his girlfriend were looking forward to a new chapter in their lives. All of that changed when his boat hit a jetty off the shore of Miami Beach early on the morning of September 25. The investigation concluded that his 32-foot boat hit the jetty at full speed. Fernández and two other people in their twenties were killed.
The boat that crashed was registered under Fernández’s name, but it was owned by one of his friends. An autopsy report, released on October 29, showed he had taken cocaine and was intoxicated by approximately twice the legal limit.
After his death, countless stories of Fernández’s love for baseball, his kindness and his journey to baseball in America began to surface. He was born and raised in Santa Clara, Cuba and had tried to escape to America twice, but was caught both times. On his third attempt, at 15 years old, Fernández was successful.
Fernández’s journey was trying and full of challenges. On one of his his journeys from Cuba, a woman fell into the water. So, Fernández, being the kind, helpful soul he was, jumped in to rescue her. He didn’t know that the woman was his mother until after he had saved her.
Fernández did not leave his graciousness and kind-hearted ways in Cuba. After his death, a video surfaced on social media of a child asking for his autograph. Fernández signed the paper as any star player would; however, in an act of friendship, Fernández then asked the boy for his own autograph. With great joy, the boy excitedly signed his name on another piece of paper and gave it to Fernández who walked back to field with it in hand.
Fernández was said to have a childish love for the game and his whole life revolved around that love. After his death, memorials started popping up all over Major League Baseball. Many teams taped his jersey to the back of their dugouts and many fellow Cuban refugees, such as Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, paid tribute to their fallen compatriot.
Fernández’s Marlins, of course, produced the grandest tribute, spray-painting his number 16 on the pitcher’s mound. One of his closest friends on the team, second baseman Dee Gordon, was seen by himself having a moment at the mound to mourn his friend.
In the first game after Fernández’s death – a 7-3 victory over the Mets – the first at bat was an emotional home run from none other than Gordon, which was also his first homer of the year. When he came back to the dugout, his emotions overtook him and his tears flowed down his face. His emotion captured everyone’s emotions about Fernández: a yearning for his smile and deep sadness for his departure.

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