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Remembering José

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Star pitcher for the Miami Marlins José Fernandez was killed during the early morning on Sept. 25 in a boating accident at just 25-years-old. In recent reports, it was revealed that Fernandez was upset following an argument with his girlfriend so he decided to go out on his boat with a few friends. Eddy Rivero and Emilio Macias were also killed when Fernandez’s boat crashed into a jetty before 3 a.m. Some of his teammates had advised him not to go out so late at night.

Fernandez grew up in Santa Clara, Cuba and was always known for being an outgoing, happy kid. He played on the same youth baseball team as MLB shortstop Aledmys Diaz and it was Diaz’s father and uncle who told Fernandez’s mother that she should bring José to the ballpark. Fernandez had said that if it was not for Diaz’s uncle having such an influence on his early life, he would have never even thought of pursuing a professional baseball career. Fernandez, his mother, and his sister, all successfully defected in 2007. They reached Mexico, but then moved to live in Tampa in 2008.

Fernandez played baseball for Braulio Alonso High School in Tampa, Florida and was drafted by the Marlins during in 2011 MLB draft.

Fernandez’s rookie season was in 2013, he was ranked as the Marlins’ best prospect and the fifth best prospect in the entire league. He finished his rookie season winning both the Sporting News Rookie of the Year Award and the National League Rookie of the Year Award. Fernandez had an overall record of 39-17 as a starting pitcher, while holding a 2.58 ERA.

The Miami Marlins cancelled their scheduled game against the Atlanta Braves on the day Fernandez passed. Teams honored Fernandez by paying tribute with a league-wide moment of silence. Some teams even wore jerseys with Fernandez’s last name on the back, hanging them up in their dugout during the game. The next day, the Marlins’ organization announced that Fernandez’s number 16 would be retired and that all members of the team would wear his name and number on the back of their uniforms.

On Monday, Sept. 26, the Miami Marlins played their first game without Fernandez, a game he was supposed to start in. Both the Marlins and the New York Mets came together as brothers, weeping in the middle of the ballpark to honor Fernandez at the mound before the game began. It will probably go down as one of the most emotional moments in the history of sports.

To begin the game, Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon took a pitch from Mets’ Bartolo Colon as a right-handed batter, as opposed to his usual left-handed batting, to honor Fernandez. On the third pitch, Fernandez and Gordon, together,  shot one over the fence, into the second deck, to give the Marlins an early 1-0 lead. This was Gordon’s first home run of the season and the ninth of his career. It was amazing, unexplainable, breathtaking, and seemed like it came straight from a movie script. As Gordon rounded third base, tears rolled down his face, his teammates’ faces, Mets players’ faces, and just about anybody’s face that was in the ballpark to capture the moment. When he reached home plate, he was greeted by his teammates. The game was about something much bigger than baseball.

“I ain’t never hit a ball that far, even in batting practice,” said Gordon. “I told the boys, ‘If you all don’t believe in God, you better start.’ For that to happen today, we had some help.” [USA Today]

The Marlins won the game 7-3.

His contagious smile will linger around major league ballparks forever.

So smile. He’d like that.

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Remembering José