Yesterday morning, I got an ESPN alert that shocked me right out of bed: Marlins pitcher, two time All-Star, and 2013 ROY Jose Fernandez died at the age of 24.
Fernandez and two friends were out boating (very) early Sunday morning in Miami when the boat crashed into a jetty and overturned. None of them were wearing a life vest. Officials believe that speed was a factor; no alcohol or drugs were found or thought to be have used.
I’m not a Marlins fan by any means, but I’m a fan of young talent in baseball. This kid’s story is one in a million – literally. He tried to defect from Cuba three times before being successful on the fourth try when he was 15 in 2008. Fernandez dreamed of playing professional baseball, and escaping from Cuba was his only chance. He had a special bond with his grandmother, and he saved his mom from drowning:
Fernandez tried four times to defect via the sea from Cuba. Three times he was intercepted by the Coast Guard, sent back and imprisoned. On the fourth time he made it to Mexico, but not before his mother fell overboard, and the 15-year-old Fernandez dove in to the surging waves to save her life (New York Post).
The Marlins drafted him in 2011, and by 2013, he was named the National League Rookie of the Year. He was sidelined for 14 months after Tommy John surgery, but he came back just as strong as he was before. This kid had great numbers, for only four years in the majors. Career 38-17 with a 2.58 ERA and 589 strikeouts. People in Miami couldn’t wait to see him pitch every five days; in fact, attendance was higher at games he started in than any other.
Fernandez had a passion for the game that’s hard to come by these days.
This year, the Marlins and Braves played the first ever game at a military base, and Fernandez was more excited to meet the service men and women than they were to meet him. And he was quite taken with the fly over that Buster Olney posted it on Twitter for him (since he didn’t know how to do it).
Yesterday’s game against the Braves was cancelled. Today the Marlins announced that all of the players would be wearing #16 in honor of Fernandez, a patch on their sleeves for the rest of the season, and they will retire his number. The funny thing is that he was supposed to start tonight.
Like I said earlier, I’m a fan of young talent. Deaths like this always hit me hard. In 2009, Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart lost his life in a car accident where he was struck by a drunk driver just hours after he started a game. At that time, he was only six years older than me. Every year in April, I think of him as the anniversary of his death comes and goes; I’m going to do the same with September and Jose Fernandez.
This is a reminder that life is short. And you should be living each day as excited as Jose Fernandez was. Because you deserve it, and that’s how he should be remembered.