Miami baseball player will be missed

By Scott Nicol

The only time I was affected by the death of a person I have never met was when SportsCenter anchor Stuart Scott died, but as I sit here attempting to write this piece, I find myself overcome with emotion about Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez’ sudden and shocking death.

Fernandez, along with two other people, were found dead in a tragic boating accident off Miami Beach Sunday morning, Florida authorities said.

Fernandez meant more to baseball than baseball meant to Fernandez, which says a lot because any person who watched the 24-year-old phenom take the mound every fifth day knows just how much passion and joy Fernandez brought to the table.

Fernandez was an ambassador for the game. His infectious smile lit up a room more than his high-velocity fastball lit up hitters.

If there was a script of a teenager attempting to defect to America, Fernandez’s story would fit the criteria. He defected to Miami, which has the largest Cuban population in the United States, when he was 15. Along the way, he saved his mother from drowning, unknowing it was even her, but analysts around baseball all mutually agreed, Fernandez was going to save that person regardless of his affiliation with them, that was the type of person Fernandez was.

Once defected, Fernandez attended Braulio Alonso High School in Tampa before being drafted 11th overall by the Miami Marlins in the 2014 first-year player draft, a Cuban-born player’s dream. From day one, the kid was destined for stardom and was loved by all, especially those in Miami. He rose quickly through the minors before making his debut in 2013 when he won the National League Rookie of the Year Award. Every fifth day became known as “Jose Day” at Marlins Park with a 27.6 percent increase in attendance on those days, according to a Jayson Stark article; I was not the only one who thought Fernandez was one of the most electrifying players and a must-watch in baseball.

Every time Fernandez took the mound, I scrambled to get to a TV and watch him make the best hitters in baseball look silly with his high velocity fastball to go along with knee-buckling breaking balls.

The old saying “there’s no crying in baseball” holds true, but Sunday was an exception. Baseball players were overwhelmed with emotion during the moment of silence for Fernandez before Sunday’s games. Baseball truly lost one if its greats, and it showed. Teams throughout the league hung up jerseys with “16” and “Fernandez” on the back to pay tribute to their fallen friend.

Maybe it’s selfish of me to say Fernandez was taken from baseball too soon. I envisioned being a 50-year-old man talking to my children about how dominant of a career the greatest pitcher I ever watched had, which I am still able to do, but the story will not be the same. Similar to the stories my father shared of former Detroit Tiger pitcher Jack Morris with me when I was a child.

Maybe it’s selfish of me to say I want to see him throw one more nasty sweeping curveball.

Maybe it’s selfish of me to say I probably won’t order next year because I won’t watch my favorite pitcher take the bump every fifth day, but nobody played the game with more passion, joy or gratitude than Fernandez did, and I am going to miss him. Fernandez was electric in every facet of the word.

Thank you Jose Fernandez for providing me and countless others with the utmost entertainment every time you took the mound.

Gone far, far too soon. The 24-year-old Fernandez was the definition of must-watch baseball, and I will always remember the fifth day as “Jose Day.” Rest in peace #16.