On Sunday September 25th, the sports world was shaken by the untimely death of Miami Marlins’ star pitcher Jose Fernandez. He was killed along with two of his friends in a boating accident when his boat collided with a jett while returning to Miami beach early Sunday morning. The Cuban superstar was only 24 years old, and his passing has been felt nationwide. Fernandez was one of the league’s premiere young talents, posting a 2.58 ERA along with 589 strikeouts through four MLB seasons.
Fernandez was not only an amazing talent, but an exceptional person. He played the game with a certain energy that is hard to find in the game today, and he always wore a smile. To him baseball was more than a job, and he was always having fun on and off the field. His vibrant personality was a huge part of the Marlins’ locker room. Although a young team, the Marlins players are known to be an extremely close-knit group. To them the loss of Fernandez was heartbreaking. He was not only their teammate, but their brother.
Just one day after the loss of their teammate, the Marlins had a game against the New York Mets. It was hard to imagine how they could manage to play with so much emotional weight bearing down on their shoulders, but they came out and gave it their all. In the pre-game ceremony both teams came together for a memorial for Fernandez, and it showed fans everywhere that this was about more than a game. As the players lined up along the baselines and the trumpets playing take me out to the ballgame rang through the stadium, all of the emotions poured out. As the both Marlins and Mets players wept for their lost brother, fans everywhere felt their pain.
Even though the teams have been rivals in the past, and the Mets are in a tight race for the playoffs, competition was set aside for a moment. To honor Fernandez the Mets hung his jersey in their dugout, and consoled the Marlins players around the pitcher’s mound. Fellow countryman Mets player Yoenis Cespedes was very emotional and shared a heartfelt hug with Marlins’ coach Barry Bonds. The Mets’ play caller Gary Cohen, someone known for his unshakable demeanor and professionalism, couldn’t hold back tears. The emotions by not only the Marlins players but fans everywhere show the kind of impact Fernandez had on those around him. It was amazing to see how the game could be set aside for a moment. Sometimes with professional athletes we can forget that they have emotions the same as us, but in this moment we could see their humanity and realize that in a lot of ways we aren’t that different.
After the ceremonies were done it was time to play ball. It seemed impossible for the Marlins to be at all productive with their minds on their lost teammate, but on this night Fernandez’s memory served as inspiration. On the third pitch of the first at-bat, Marlins’ second baseman Dee Gordon blasted a solo home-run to right field. As he rounded the bases tears rolled down his cheeks, and as he touched home plate he pointed to the sky. After the game Gordon said “I ain’t never hit a ball that far, even in batting practice. I told the boys, ‘If you all don’t believe in God, you better start.’ For that to happen today, we had some help.”
The emotional home run lifted the Marlins to a seven – three victory over the Mets, tallying fourteen hits on the night. The game was a true reminder of what makes sports so special, and is something that, not only the sport of baseball but the entire sports world, will not soon forget.