By Kyle Dawson
In the face of a tragedy like this one, a life lost way too soon should also be celebrated.
The loss of Jose Fernandez goes beyond baseball.
It goes beyond his future Hall-of-Fame type numbers. A 38-17 record, a 2.58 career ERA, a 2.44 career FIP (fielding independent pitching) and an 11.2 K/9 and all kinds of impressive statistics highlight his four-year career.
But, like I said, it goes beyond that.
A Cuban defector, who had tried three times unsuccessfully to escape the country before succeeding on his fourth. In that process, he jumped overboard to save someone who had fallen over, not knowing it was his mother.
Someone who was more than active in the community. Someone who was just, by all accounts, a person that was “full of life.”
You saw that on the field and off the field. Fernández seemingly always had a smile on his face.
He played the game that way. He played the game with a fire and emotion that only he could. He played it with pride. He played it the way it is supposed to be played.
As the day and the week have gone on, I’ve thought about all of the times he showed this, which was the majority of the time. But, I thought of the one that most stuck out, and have been replaying it since.
When Fernández hit his first home run, he flipped his bat. He took a peek. Chris Johnson, at the time the opposing third baseman, and by Sunday, a grieving teammate of Fernández, among other Braves that day, took exception to it. The benches cleared. And as Fernández was being held back by teammates, the entire time he’s laughing. I don’t think any other player in the league acts that way.
I’m sure I wasn’t the only person that anytime a Fernández highlight came on the TV or appeared on a social media timeline that stopped to watch the brilliance and the character.
He was one of those guys for the baseball world, and he will be sorely missed by everyone who knew him, for real or vicariously through the great sport of baseball.
His number will hang in the rafters of Marlins Park and never be worn again. Rightfully so.
If we can take anything else away from this tragedy, it’s that we all need to take a look in the mirror.
We need to take a look and change how we do things and change how we go about our lives and work whether that be a sport or an everyday job.
The world lost a good one a week ago, today. And the baseball community is forever changed.
Shortly after 3 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 25, personnel of the Coast Guard on patrol noticed a small boat upside down on the north end of a rocky jetty near the entrance of Miami Harbor.
Early in the morning, it was announced that one of three victims, all in their 20s, were found dead at the scene of the boating accident.
One of those was 24-year-old, budding phenom, José Fernández.
The sports world and baseball lost a star, who had the early career numbers of a future Hall of Famer.
The details of the night of the accident were unclear at the time.
Will Bernal, a friend of one of the other victims of the accident, Eddy Rivero, received a phone call from Rivero, shortly before midnight, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.
Rivero told Bernal that Fernández wanted to go out boating.
Long story short, Bernal told Rivero it was a bad idea. He told Rivero by text, according to Passan, to be careful. Bernal would track the movements by Rivero turning on his “find iPhone app.”
The three men stopped at American Social Restaurant and Bar, a gastropub along the Miami River.
According to Passan, Bernal stopped tracking the boat around 3 a.m. and fell asleep. He had a soccer game a few hours later. Bernal slept late and hustled to the game, after which he saw a text message saying Fernández had died when the boat struck a rocky jetty and flipped. The other two passengers died as well.
Bernal called Rivero, hoping it was a terrible, awful nightmare. The call went straight to voicemail.
“I just had this horrible feeling,” Bernal told Passan. “I knew. I knew.”
A somber version of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” played, with eight Marlins’ players gathered around a mound with the number 16 painted on it, with the name of their teammate and the number 16 on each of their backs, as well as the rest of the team, standing on the third-base line.
Not a dry eye in the stadium. And likely, not many dry eyes watching live.
At the conclusion of the national anthem, every New York Met took the time to one-by-one, embrace and share a moment with every single one of the Miami Marlins’ staff and players on the diamond.
The Marlins gathered behind the mound, taking a moment, and one of the leaders left, Giancarlo Stanton, spoke to the team.
He implored his team to play the game Jose would have wanted.
“Just put your hand on somebody,” he said. “If you see someone’s struggling, pick them up. We’re going to find a way to do this. I love all you guys… alright. Let’s go.”
Then his finger shot up in the air, towards the sky, and just as quickly, so did everyone’s in the huddle behind his mound. José Fernández’s mound – the one he was supposed to be pitching on Monday.
Adam Conley took the mound shortly thereafter. He said after the game, it was the most tiring 45 pitches he had ever thrown in his life. He was exhausted.
Monday night’s game was supposed to pit Fernandez against the Mets. His start had been pushed back a day from Sunday, so he could face the Mets, who were in the wild card race in the National League.
Then baseball was played. The top of the first went and was gone. Then Marlins’ second baseman Dee Gordon stepped to the plate to lead the bottom of the first off, donning Fernández’s helmet, attempting to emulate his former teammate’s batting stance. He took a pitch.
He then switched out his helmet and took his usual spot in the left-handed batter’s box. On a 2-0 pitch, Gordon hit his first home run of the season. As he crossed home plate, he pointed to the sky, and immediately was overcome with tears.
One question came to mind as I watched that and I’m sure to many others, as the script could not have been written any better, considering all of the circumstances.
How can you not be romantic about baseball?