Celebrating the Life of Jose Fernandez
Everyone in the baseball community and beyond has by now heard of the tragic news. In the early hours of Sunday morning in Miami, Jose Fernandez was involved in a boating accident. He, along with two other friends he was with, died when their boat crashed.
This came as a complete and utter shock to everyone. At first when I personally saw the news I didn't think that it could be true. One of baseball's best and brightest young stars gone in the blink of an eye. As a result of this unexpected news the game scheduled for this past Sunday against the Braves was cancelled. The Marlins organization took the day to process the news and to be with Fernandez's family.
24 hours is hardly enough time to give someone to get over the loss of a dear friend. It is almost unthinkable. However, there is still baseball to be played, and the opening game for the Marlins against the New York Mets had to go on. The entire Marlins organization sought to honor the memory of Jose Fernandez, and they did just that.
The players as a team wanted to each wear Fernandez's number, 16, on their jerseys as well as his name for Monday's game. They sent the call into Majestic, who makes all of the jerseys for the MLB. In less than 24 hours the jerseys were flown into Miami so Fernandez could be honored.
Hearts were still heavy at game time, as Marlins outfielders Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton were seen openly weeping for the loss of their teammate during warm ups. Before the first pitch of the game there was a ceremony held in his remembrance, and the team led by Stanton each inscribed 16 into the pitching mound.
None may have taken the loss as hard as Dee Gordon, who was a very close friend to Fernandez. He was seen standing for a prolonged period of time on Sunday at the ballpark next to the mound after the game had been canceled. To lead off Saturday's game for the Marlins, Gordon, who is a left handed batter, took the first pitch batting right handed. He had a batting helmet with the number 16 on it, and said he tried to impersonate Fernandez's batting stance as best as he could. After switching helmets and sides of the plate, he did something magical.
Two pitches later Dee Gordon sent one into the second deck down the right field line for his first home run of the season. After the game he claimed that he had never hit one that far even in batting practice, and Jose was there helping him. While rounding the bases Gordon was so overcome with emotion, and as he rounded second the tears were freely flowing. He touched home plate and pointed skyward, pounding his chest to Fernandez who was looking down. He then broke down, sobbing with grief, and had to be helped down into the dugout and into the clubhouse tunnel.
Many other players were seen with tears in their eyes during the game, and the whole contest was a tribute to one that was taken too soon. During warm ups between innings, no advertisements were played. Instead it was Jose Fernandez's soundtrack that he listened to on days he was scheduled to pitch. The Mets handled the game in an extremely classy way, embracing each one of the Marlins players after the national anthem and before the game started. The Marlins ended up winning the game 7-3, playing with lots of emotion for their beloved teammate, and ultimately keeping them in the Wild Card hunt.
The post game ceremony that the Marlins held was enough to bring everyone watching to tears. After going through the hand shakes, the team all gathered around the mound and again wrote in the dirt. They then circled up, led again by Stanton, and the team chaplain led a prayer for Fernandez. The team all left their hats on the pitching mound, along with the game ball as a tribute, and exited the field in tears. For a long time to come, every day in Miami will be #JoseDay.