Last Sunday, the baseball world lost one of its best pitchers and brightest young stars as Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating accident at the age of 24. The type of talent Fernandez had was astounding. He finished 38-17 with a 2.58 ERA and 589 strikeouts in only 471.1 innings (11.2 K/9) en route to claiming the 2013 National League Rookie of the Year and two All-Star selections. As a fan of the Marlins’ division rival New York Mets, I got to see Jose Fernandez first hand many times. He made his MLB debut on the mound at Citi Field as a 20 year old, giving up no runs on three hits while striking out eight. From there, his high-90’s fastball and knee-buckling curve would strike fear into every team unfortunate enough to get his turn in the Marlins’ rotation.
Jose Fernandez’s journey to becoming the star he became is remarkable. When he was a teenager, he and his family attempted to escape Cuba for a better life in America three times, with each one resulting in jail time. During the fourth and final attempt, the boat his family was on hit turbulent waters and sent his mother overboard. Jose jumped into the dark waters while not knowing it was even his mother that fell overboard, and saved her life. From there, Fernandez became the embodiment of the American Dream; a man who arrived in the country with very little and through his own talent and hard work, made himself into a success.
The impact Jose Fernandez had on the Marlins and the game of baseball goes far beyond his own performance. He made the Marlins, a team that has been dormant in baseball for many years, into a team that you had to watch or even buy a ticket to the ballpark when he took the mound. Around the game, he was seen as one of the most passionate and joyful players around. Jose Fernandez looked like the happiest man alive on the mound and in the dugout when he wasn’t pitching, and brought energy to a game that really needed it.
The death of Jose Fernandez still doesn’t feel real, and I’m not sure if it ever will. His talent and enthusiasm will never be forgotten, and his impact will be felt forever. The world will be a better place if we all could live life with the pure joy that Jose did, and that is how we can honor him; by simply being the happiest we can be.