Both men are of Cuban descent.
And both are from Miami.
On Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio paid tribute on the Senate floor to the Miami Marlins' star pitcher, José Fernández, who died in a boating accident in the early hours of Sunday at the age of 24.
Rubio, who introduced a resolution honoring Fernández, said, "His talents were unquestionable, but he had only a brief but shining career in Major League Baseball.”
“He was obviously a young man who was headed to a distinguished career that I believe would have led to the Hall of Fame and perhaps along the way a couple of pennants,” Rubio said.
Rubio, whose parents came from Cuba, said that what made Fernández special was more than his remarkable baseball talent.
He noted how Fernández had tried four times to flee Cuba, even being thrown in jail for two months for one attempt when he was just a teenager. On his last attempt, which he made with his mother, he saved her when she fell into the water and struggled to stay afloat.
“He swam 15 minutes back to the boat in waves he later described as ‘stupid big,’ and he pulled himself and his mother to safety,” Rubio said. “José was 15 years old. Before America ever met José Fernández, before his fastball earned him millions of dollars and countless fans, in the middle of the night and rough seas and against all odds at just 15 years of age, this is the young man that José Fernández was revealing himself to be.”
Rubio called Fernández, who died in the accident along with two friends who were also on the boat, a reminder to everyone about the greatness of the United States. He said Fernández was beside himself after he became a U.S. citizen last year.
The senator quoted the pitcher as having said of becoming naturalized, “This one is my most important accomplishment. I am an American citizen now … I consider myself now to be free. I thank this amazing country for giving me the opportunity to go to school here and learn the language and pitch in the major leagues. It is an honor to be a part of this country.’”
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