Sometimes in sports we see things that we can’t put into words. This weekend, the death of Miami Marlins star pitcher José Fernández was one of those things. It was tragic to see a young man with so much promise lose his life far too early. But this is bigger than sports. José Fernández left behind his mother, grandmother, family, friends, teammates and his pregnant girlfriend. He was an amazing pitcher, but more importantly, José Fernández was an amazing person.
His agent, Scott Boras, held a press conference that he couldn’t finish, because he couldn’t stop crying. That’s the impact Fernández had on everyone. Dan LeBatard of ESPN told a touching story of how Fernández was the reason his mother and many other Marlins fans went to games every time he pitched. He too struggled to finish his comments, overcome with emotion. The Marlins organization and owner Jeff Loria have stated that nobody will ever wear Fernández’s number 16 again.
The Marlins’ September 26 7-2 victory over the Mets was all about honoring Fernández. It was a tribute to a man who meant so much to a team and community. Players crowded around the mound to honor him before and after the game, with the Mets and many other teams around baseball hanging number 16 jerseys in their dugouts Monday night.
The Marlins-Mets game was filled with tear-jerking moments, but none like Dee Gordon’s leadoff home run at the bottom of the first. The left-handed hitter took his close friend’s right-handed stance and tried to emulate his hitting stance to honor Fernández, he said. He took Bartolo Colón deep and proceeded to pat his heart and point to the sky as he touched home plate and immediately broke down in tears. Gordon would later say after the game that it was the greatest moment of his life to hit that home run for José.
There is no easy way to heal from this devastating loss to the baseball community. But it is a reminder of how powerful sports are. A whole country mourned the death of a man who had so much love for those around him and the game he played. The sea of Fernández jerseys and the dramatic, inspired win by the Marlins is the beginning of the healing process.
Sports has the ability to unite us all. Fernández was taken from this world far too early, and it touched the lives and the hearts of not just sports fans but people everywhere.