By Michael Jarosz
Tragedy struck the baseball world as Miami Marlins star pitcher, Jose Fernández, was killed in a boating accident on the morning of Sunday, September 25. Fernández was just 24 years old, going through the last few weeks of his third full season in the big leagues finishing his last start against the Washington Nationals pitching eight strong innings with 12 strikeouts.
“There are no words to describe how this organization feels,” Marlins president, David Samson, said. “Jose was someone who we’ve known since he was a drafted young man, and I think when you talk about a tragedy like this, there are no words that come to mind. There’s no playbook, there are no words of consolation.”
Jose Fernandez had a long, twisting path to success in Major League Baseball. He was born in Cuba, and in order to play professionally in the United States he had to defect. Fernandez and his family made three unsuccessful attempts to defect before reaching the United States in 2008. In one such attempt, Jose noticed a woman drowning and risked his life to save her, only after the rescue did he realize the woman was his own mother. After reaching the United States, Fernandez starred at his local high school in Tampa, Florida, and was drafted 14th overall in 2011 by the local Major League team, the Miami Marlins. Jose became a fixture in the Marlins rotation after only one full year in the minors making the big league roster in 2013.
By 2016, Fernández, was already a two-time All-Star, winding down his best big league season, posting a 16-8 record with a 2.86 ERA. The hard-throwing righty had already compiled a franchise record for strikeouts with 253, and his 12.49 strikeouts per nine innings paces the Majors this year. Fernandez was perhaps off to the greatest start of any pitcher of all time with rate stats outpacing legends such as Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens. Beyond the stats, Fernandez had an undeniable passion for the game appreciated by teammates, fans, and his peers in the game.
Fernández was an avid fisherman, who spent time on his boat. According to the Coast Guard, the boat that crashed and flipped over early Sunday morning was owned by a friend. Fernandez and two other males were killed when their boat struck a jetty at a high rate of speed during its journey back into Miami harbor. Fernandez enjoyed boating as a getaway from his professional life and he often invited teammates to join him on trips. Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna stated he also had been invited on this night, but had declined to go home to his family.
As all contemplated the great loss, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred commented “All of Baseball is shocked and saddened by the sudden passing of Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernández. He was one of our game’s great young stars who made a dramatic impact on and off the field since his debut in 2013. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, the Miami Marlins organization and all of the people he touched in his life.”
The Miami Marlins immediately canceled their game on the following Monday as the clubhouse mourned the loss of their friend and teammate. Tributes to Jose Fernandez were created at Marlins Park, and fans flocked to the stadium to remember their hero. The loss of Jose Fernandez will not just be felt throughout baseball, but the entire sports world.