It’s tough to write this one. Early Sunday morning Jose Fernandez and two of his friends passed away from a boating accident off the coast of Miami Florida, I woke up after a night partying at Ozzfest, I just saw Black Sabbath, Opeth, Megadeth, Disturbed, etc. I was so stoked for Knotfest the next day. Then I woke up, I get a text from a friend that said, “Dude Jose Fernandez died?!” I was so confused, I checked Twitter to confirm it and make sure it wasn’t some weird rumor going around. He was correct, I was in total shock; I’ve never seen someone this young die, someone so talented and still going into their prime.
By now you’ve heard of his story but if you haven’t it goes something like this. Jose was born in Cuba, his family tried to defect from the country 3 unsuccessful times, they would serve prison times for trying to escape. The last and thankfully final time, his mother fell overboard from their raft. Jose, not even knowing who the victim was, selflessly jumped into the waters and rescued her. The family made it to Florida and resided in Tampa,where he played baseball in high school and was a first-round selection of the Miami Marlins.
When he made it to the big leagues he made an immediate impact, this was the same year Puig was called up and propelled the Dodgers after a very slow start. It was a battle of Cuban rookies in the National League and it was so exciting to watch. He was so dominant finishing the season with a 2.19 ERA, .979 WHIP, 187 strikeouts in 172.2 innings pitched, good enough for third place in Cy Young votes too. He then looked to be dominant again at the beginning of his sophomore campaign but sadly had to have Tommy John surgery to repair his elbow. He came back at the end of last season and pretty much picked up where he was, although the Marlins understandably limited him to only a maximum of 7 innings pitched per start. This season he was definitely in the NL Cy Young discussion again with a league best 12.5 strikeouts per 9 innings, he had 253 strikeouts in only 182 innings pitched. That’s next-level stuff right there.
What he meant to his community had even more impact than his pitching. The Cuban population in Miami is an astounding 35% according to the 2010 US Census. To say he was a symbol for Cuban-Americans in the area is an understatement, he represented hope, that Cubans that work hard enough here can make it for themselves and their families. The Marlins don’t get much support from the area, with good reason because of some strange decisions by management. However, when it was his time to start, it was Jose Day and the city actually cared about their baseball team.
What happened during his memorial game will go down as one of the most memorable regular season games of all time. Dee Gordon led-off, starting from the right side and wearing Jose’s helmet in honor of him. He then switched his helmet and hit from his natural side, 2 pitches later he hit his first home run of the season; easily the longest homer I’ve ever seen him hit. When Dee returned to the dugout he was embraced by his teammates; all of them wearing Fernandez jerseys. This was the most memorable regular season home runs since Mike Piazza hit his go-ahead homer after 9/11. After the game, the Marlins players surrounded the mound in a circle and left their hats on the mound for Jose, as chants of “Jose” echoed throughout the stadium. It was a fitting honor for one of the biggest losses in sports history.
Some of my favorite images from the game.
This is my all-time favorite Jose moment. Dude hits his first homer of his career and his loving life, of course you can’t be too passionate in baseball or you’re going to hurt some fragile egos.
Rest in peace Jose Fernandez.