Baseball suffered a tremendous loss on Sunday when Marlins’ pitcher Jose Fernandez, 24, was killed in a boating accident. I know this is a Dodgers blog, but I felt it appropriate to write a little remembrance to him.
Everyone knows his accolades and accomplishments on the field. He was, undoubtedly, one of the five best pitchers in baseball and, more importantly, an even greater person.
And that’s the thing: As amazing as he was on the field, he was an even more amazing person off the field. This tribute from his former hitting coach and friend Eduardo Perez tells it all. It’s well worth the seven minutes.
This is what separated Fernandez from even the likes of Clayton Kershaw, Chris Sale, et al — he had so much fun playing this kid’s game, and he never let anyone forget that. He was flamboyant, emotional and expressive — all things that go against baseball’s ridiculous unwritten rules — but he made it all work. The things he did were never to show anyone up, it was pure and, at times, raw emotion. Every one player and fan enjoys the game differently, and Fernandez definitely spoke to a younger generation of baseball players.
Fernandez defected from Cuba at age 15, and Jonah Keri wrote this amazing piece on him for the now defunct Grantland.
“And then he remembers the splash. He heard it one night while he was making small talk with the captain. After the splash, he heard the screams. A wave had crashed over the boat’s deck and swept Fernandez’s mother out to sea. He saw her body and before he had time to think, he jumped in. A spotlight shone on the water, and Fernandez could make out his mother thrashing in the waves about 60 feet from the boat. She could swim, but just barely, and as Fernandez pushed his way toward her, he spat out salty water with almost every stroke. Waves — ‘stupid big,’ he says — lifted him to the sky, then dropped him back down. When he reached his mother he told her, “Grab my back, but don’t push me down. Let’s go slow, and we’ll make it.” She held his left shoulder. With his right arm — his pitching arm — he paddled. Fifteen minutes later, they reached the boat. A rope dropped, and they climbed aboard. For now, at least, they were going to be OK.”
This doesn’t even speak to the impact he had on the Latino community, as referenced in the above video with Perez. He was a generational talent and an role model for children in the community. Kids wanted to be like Fernandez, which is a good thing.
I just broke the Jose Fernandez news to my 8 year old son. His response: "It's not fair. He was a superhero & superheroes don't die."— Jon Linder (@LinderShowMiami) September 25, 2016
Heartbreaking. We do view these athletes as immortal — especially in their playing days. But this is a stark reminder that no one is.
Fernandez' joy is irreplaceable. One of the problems about baseball is that it doesn't look *fun*. Fernandez unapologetically ignored this.— Daniel Brim (@DanielBrim) September 25, 2016
Well said, Daniel.
He was a remarkable person by everyone’s account. I marveled at his talents on the baseball field. This world is worse without him in it. Rest in peace, Jose.