Fernandez’s teammates honored the late pitcher following their win over the Mets.
On Monday, Sept. 26, just one day after tragedy struck the team, the Miami Marlins were overcome with emotion as they took the field against the New York Mets, all sporting the name and number of their fallen teammate, Jose Fernandez.
Lead-off hitter Dee Gordon, a left-handed batter, took the first pitch right-handed in honor of his brother and teammate. Two pitches later, he launched his first home run of the season into the stands. Half the team channeled Fernandez’s jubilant spirit as they were on the top step of the dugout cheering.
Fernandez, the 24-year-old two-time All-Star pitcher was killed in a boating accident early Sunday morning off the coast of Miami Beach. The Marlins cancelled Sunday’s scheduled game, returning to the field on Monday with a fitting victory in honor of the late pitching Ace.
Fernandez’s tragic death sent shockwaves throughout the entire professional sports world, as many paid tribute to the 2013 National League Rookie of the Year. The news stunned fellow countrymen Yasiel Puig and Yoenis Cespedes, who hung his jersey in their respective dugouts during Sunday’s competition.
Gordon immediately posted on Instagram the pitcher’s mound with Fernandez’s hat, jersey number and a bouquet of flowers with the caption “I love you and I’m so hurt to see my brother go...I know I’m being selfish but you weren’t just a teammate to me...you were family...I love you Josey!!!”
Fernandez’s journey to the majors began in Santa Clara, Cuba where he played baseball with dry branches and the best rocks he could find, according to a 2013 profile by The Ringer’s Jordan Ritter Conn. After being arrested on the Caribbean sea on their way to Miami, Fernandez, just 14-years-old at the time, and his mother were sent to Cuban prison.
During his fourth and final attempt to defect, he heard a woman scream as she fell overboard. Fernandez instantly dove into the violent waters not knowing the woman he rescued was his mother Maritza until she was within arm’s reach. They made their way to Tampa where former Cuban national team pitching coach and fellow defector Orlando Chinea took Fernandez under his wing.
In 2013, a 20-year-old Fernandez debuted against the Mets, throwing five innings, allowing just one run on three hits, and eight strikeouts. The right-hander flashed a bright orange glove with matching cleats in his first All-Star appearance later that season. Days before he was announced as the National League Rookie of the Year, he was asked what message he would tell his grandmother Olga in Cuba. “Everything I do is for her and I’m gonna keep working for her and hopefully, one day, she’s gonna get to see me here.” Fernandez was unaware that Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria arranged a two-year visa for her so she could watch him pitch, as she rushed to hug him right after he spoke those words.
Fernandez’s last outing was a classic performance: eight shutout innings with 12 strikeouts, three hits and zero walks versus the Washington Nationals. Later that day, he shared a photo of his girlfriend cradling her belly, announcing over social media that they were expecting a baby.
Fernandez lived with a fiery passion. He was on the top step of the dugout during his off-days, cheering whenever his teammates made a great play. That exuberance often rubbed his opponents the wrong way, but Fernandez always backed up his flair with substance. He electrified any field he stepped on, injected life back into America’s pastime and approached each day with the youthful glee of a Little Leaguer. His potential was unrivaled, his joy unmatched and his family’s sorrow unimaginable.