Gone Too Soon: The Impact of Jose Fernandez’s Untimely Death

Jake Rosenstein

Early Sunday morning, the world was rocked by the news that star baseball player Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating accident off the coast of Miami Beach. I carefully chose not to use the phrase “sports world” in the previous sentence because Jose’s story transcended baseball. His acumen as a ball player was dwarfed by his altruism, his courage and his story of  his coming to America.

When he was just a teenager, Fernandez had dreams of playing baseball in the United States. His home country of Cuba has had notoriously poor relations with America and he was not allowed to leave his country. Just like the many Cuban defectors before him, he attempted to flee on boat to America, and was even jailed for his attempts. On his fourth try, rough seas caused his mother to fall overboard, but he dove in and saved her life at the risk of his own. He finally made it to America in 2007, settling in Tampa, Florida. He would later become one of the best players in the game. It is no exaggeration when I say that Jose was one of the top five pitchers in the MLB throughout his major league years, and he was on track for a Hall of Fame career. In his three years as a pitcher (he was injured all of 2014), he made two all-star game appearances and won the 2013 Rookie of the Year Award.

There has been no death in the MLB felt this much since the passing of Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente in 1972. Clemente was a perennial all-star, whose presence in the game was tremendous before his passing. Clemente is an apt comparison to Fernandez, who was known for his energy, boyish charm and charisma that made him not only well-liked around the league, but also a fan favorite. The MLB is no stranger to boating accidents. Former major leaguers Steve Olin and Tim Crews were killed, and Bob Ojeda seriously injured, in a boating accident

in 1993.

As a die-hard Mets fan, I have seen the Mets face the Marlins many times and believe me when I say that the energy Fernandez brought to the mound was unlike any other Marlin in their short history. Fernandez had absolutely dominated the Mets since his debut in 2013, and I wish I could see him do it one more time.

On Monday night, the Marlins played the Mets in their first game since his death, and the game lived up to the hype. The emotions were running high as everyone, during a pregame ceremony, teared up when they remembered Jose’s legacy. The Marlins’ second baseman Dee Gordon, Jose’s closest friend on the team, led the game by batting from the right side of the plate in Jose’s honor. He then launched a leadoff homerun, his first of the year. With Gordon’s notorious lack of power, hitting a homerun in the first at-bat since Fernandez’s death was really something special. The Marlins won the game 7-3, deservedly beating the Mets. Jeffery Loria, the owner of the team, and the Miami Marlins decided to retire Fernandez’s number (16), which was a meaningful gesture. Miami Marlins’ fans, fans of major league baseball and fans of a real human triumph, all mourn the terrible loss of Jose Fernandez. His contributions inside and outside of baseball will have a lasting impact.