Swing and a Miss – The Death of José Fernández

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Tonight, as we talk about the miss section of Swing and a Miss, we must talk unfortunately talk about the tragic death of 24 year old Miami Marlins starting pitcher José Fernández.

If you don’t know who José Fernández is, he’s one of the top 5 starting pitchers in all of baseball. He was a star and a Cuban star in a Cuban city (in Miami). Early this morning, around 3:30 a.m. EST, the Coast Guard Patrol spotted an overturned boat off of Miami Beach. There was a severe impact with a jetty, or a grouping of rocks. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the boat was going at a high speed and crashed into those rocks, which resulted in the accident.

This is just a terrible, terrible day for so many different communities. The Major League Baseball community, the Minor League baseball community, the Cuban community, the Miami community all most somebody. I think Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said it himself.

“All of Baseball is shocked and saddened by the sudden passing of Miami Marlins pitcher José Fernández,” said Manfred. “He was one of our game’s great young stars who made a dramatic impact on and off the field since his debut in 2013. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, the Miami Marlins organization and all of the people he touched in his life,”

We can talk all we want about how big of a star this man was, and at the young age of 24 he had two All-Star appearances under his belt. He was also the 2013 National League Rookie of the Year.In his 471 1/3 career major league innings had a 2.58 career ERA, and striking out 11.25 batters per nine innings. He was one of the most talented pitchers I’ve ever seen pitch. So just incredibly talented, I don’t know how else to put it. The sky was the limit for this guy and he would have had a Hall of Fame career if he had the chance.

But he was so much more than a talented major league starting pitcher.

He was a man that left everything he knew and defected from Cuba four times, finally being successful on the fourth attempt.

He was a man that on that 4th attempt, in 2008, dove into the water to save a person a person that went overboard, later finding out it was his mother.

He was a man who went to jail three different occasions  every time he unsuccessfully defected from Cuba.

He was a man who donated the $20,000 bonus that he got for the Rookie of the Year award to a cancer foundation called Live Like Bella.

He was a man who lit up on the field, and he was always smiling. When you look at every single picture of him, there’s a big smile on his face. When he hit his first career home run, he looked at it a little too long and created a benches clearing brawl with the Atlanta Braves, and there’s a picture of him smiling in the middle of the brawl. That’s the kind of person he was.

He was a man that took care of former teammate Casey McGehee’s son, who has cerebral palsy, while McGehee was in batting practice.

He was a man that never took playing baseball for granted. When the Miami Marlins played in the Fort Bragg game earlier this year he was taking video of the airplanes going over the field, taking it all in and being thankful for the opportunity to play ball there.

He was also  a Cuban hero, the first huge Cuban star to specifically play for the Miami Marlins, where Miami is the biggest Cuban community in the United States.

On top of all that, He was a son, to a mother who he ended up saving from drowning.

He was a grandson to his grandmother, Him and his grandmother didn’t see each other for five years when he defected. There’s a video out there that shows the first time they see each other in 2014 and if it can’t give you goosebumps, I don’t know what will.

He was also a soon to be father again. He posted on Instagram this past week that his wife was pregnant with kid number 2. He also had a three year old daughter with his wife and that’s just a sad, tragic loss of life.

I woke up this morning to this news and got emotional. I tweeted out, “Wow. Words aren’t enough. #RIPFernández”, because words aren’t enough. He was 24, he was just three years older than I am currently.  I think about where I’ll be three years from now and to think that was it for him, those 24 years were it, is unfathomable to me. I can’t imagine how his teammates’ and family feels, as well as the whole city of Miami.

So many players have talked about Fernández and what he meant both on and off the field.  You had Eduardo Perez, Aaron Boone, etc.  Every team held a moment of silence for him. Yasiel Puig and Yoenes Cespedes, two Cuban stars in their own right taped up #16 Fernández jerseys in their dugouts. David Ortiz told the Rays to cancel the pregame retirement ceremony. Through all of this, nobody had a bad word to say about him. Don Mattingly held back tears as he said, “I see such a little boy in the way he played. Such joy. When you watch kids play Little League, that’s what I think about.”

This is just another reminder that life is so unpredictable.  You never know when your day is going to come.  I lost my father just a little over a year ago and it has had such a huge impact on me.  José Fernández’s death will leave a similar impact to all those who have encountered him, watched the game of baseball, loved him, or will study the game 10 years from now to see who the star pitchers were in 2016. There’s already been talk about creating a Spirit Award in honor of Fernández.  In tonight’s game, the entire Marlins team will wear #16. Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has already said that after tonight, no other Miami Marlin player will wear that jersey number again. These are all a couple of good things that have come out of this. Hopefully, through all of this tragedy, some good can come from it. Throuhgout all this, there will be good things to come out of this.  Maybe baseball players or baseball fans hold their kids a little tighter tonight. Maybe another person sees this story and proceeds with more caution while going out on a boat in the waters. Maybe, just maybe, all of these things and more come together and the people involved can make this world a more positive place.

So, on this section of Swing and a Miss, we will dedicate it to a young, talented life lost, José Fernández who will truly be missed.

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