I know this site is about independent baseball.
And I also know that José Fernández was definitely not an indy ball player. In fact, the 24 year old was one of the greatest younger MLB pitchers of all time.
But this is the only outlet that I have to (try to) put what I’m feeling into words and share that with the baseball community. Indy ball, minors or majors… it really doesn’t matter. The love for this sport is strong wherever you go.
As I’m sitting here watching the Miami Marlins take the field for the first time since his tragic death, the entire team wearing #16 Fernández jerseys with tears in their eyes, I can’t help but bawl my eyes out too. Dee Gordon’s first home run of the season in his first at bat after putting on Fernández’s batting helmet isn’t helping the tears either…
I didn’t personally know Fernández as many of my friends did, but I have had the pleasure of seeing him during batting practices at PNC Park (watching him interact with kids and adults alike) along with watching countless games on TV. As the announcers of this game just mentioned, he’s the guy who fans of other teams would tune in to watch if their team wasn’t playing at that time. That’s certainly true in my case as well.
I’m a baseball fan before I’m a (insert specific team name here) fan. And as a baseball fan, how could you not love José Fernández?
He had a love and energy for this game and for life in general that I have never seen before, but I sure do hope to see again.
I honestly wish every player loved baseball and life as much as Fernández did… I’m just not sure that’ll ever be possible.
He loved life. He loved baseball. And he did it all with the biggest, most infectious smile on his face. You honestly cannot find a picture of him NOT smiling unless he was in game-mode, on the mound throwing strikes. But even then, he couldn’t hold back that youthful grin for very long.
If you’ve never seen him, I’m not sure I can truly convey his playful attitude and demeanor. The best way I can describe it is that he played baseball like the happiest of little leaguers. He had a spark and a passion that you just don’t see at the major league level.
Yes, he was an amazing pitcher, but he was also a fantastic teammate and person. The first guy cheering on his teammates, the first one to joke and mess around during interviews. He knew when to be serious and get down to business, but he still managed to do it with such enthusiasm that everyone fed off of.
I’m sure his confidence came off as cockiness and arrogance to some, but that just comes with the territory of being young and talented… I feel confident in saying that he never intended it to come off that way.
He was just a kid from Cuba who was living the dream. And after leaving Cuba at the age of 15 – after three unsuccessful attempts – he had every right to live out the dream playing America’s past time.
To many, baseball is a just a game or a job, but some times it isn’t. It’s much more than that. José Fernández and the bond everyone in baseball has with each other just proves that.
Baseball is fun, and he never forgot that. I hope every player never forgets that either.
Rest in peace, José. Thank you for bringing joy to baseball like only you could.