Jose Fernandez, 24, was a two-time All-Star who went 38-17 in his four seasons with the Marlins, winning the NL's Rookie of the Year award in 2013. The native of Santa Clara, Cuba became a U.S. citizen last year and was enormously popular in Miami.
There are times when words fail. When words cannot adequately convey the tragedy that comes when a life is unexpectedly cut short. Or fittingly memorialize a 24-year-old who seemed so full of life. Or convey the level of grief a family must be feeling.
Miami Marlins pitcher José Fernández died in a boating accident that killed three early Sunday morning in Miami Harbor. The ace with an impressive arm, ear-to-ear smile and a promising future gone far too soon.
He possessed the combination of talent and charisma it takes to become a superstar. Moreover, he was an embodiment of the hope for a better future that drives so many families in search of a better life.
- Maria Burns Ortiz
Transported into our homes night after night, professional athletes have the ability to perform at what can seem like a near superhuman level, making moments like these – when we are reminded of human fragility and mortality – seem unfathomable.
Fernández was a remarkable athletic talent and rising star. However, it would seem so trivial to mention statistics as a measure of anything when it comes to the his abrupt passing. Numbers may be the kind of thing that define a pitcher, but they are not the things that define a person.
Since he came on to the Major League scene in 2013, so many people – across baseball, across Florida and beyond – found themselves swept up in Fernández’s remarkable story. The boy who started playing baseball with rocks and sticks in a Caribbean country where for so many opportunity seems out of reach. The teen who tried to defect four times, once coming so close as to see the lights off the coast of Florida before being sent back. The young hero who jumped into the water after a fellow passenger fell overboard only to learn that that the woman he saved was his own mother on his fourth (and finally successful) attempt to leave Cuba. The prospect who became a first-round draft pick, 2013 MLB All-Star and National League Rookie of the Year. The pitcher whose reunion with his abuela became a viral video that captured the hearts of everyone who has a grandmother. The player who bounced back from surgery to earn a second All-Star spot in 2016 with the best years of his career sure to lie ahead. The soon-to-be father who just days ago shared his happy news with the world the way so many do via social media.
His was a feel-good, anything-is-possible story that has come to an all-to-early and heartbreaking conclusion.
Fernández was one of those transcendent players who have the ability to capture fans both committed and casual. He possessed the combination of talent and charisma it takes to become a superstar. Moreover, he was an embodiment of the hope for a better future that drives so many families in search of a better life.
His loss will be felt beyond the field, not only in the Marlins clubhouse, but throughout the game. One of the next generation of Latino baseball stars, his death has left many in the Cuban- American community reeling. But more than anything this is a heart-wrenching loss beyond words for a family who lost not a player, but a son and a grandson and a father-to-be.