This morning began as so many mornings do, with the joy on the face of my son upon seeing that daddy was home since it was the weekend. We went out to the Pumpkin Patch as we do every year, and shortly thereafter I was informed of the passing of Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez. So many things went through my head this morning as I began piecing together what could have possibly been the cause or necessity for such a senseless tragedy. Upon seeing my father, the first thing I could think to say was, “How could this boy have crossed an ocean to reach freedom, only to be taken by those same waves four years later”?
This is a story of freedom, a story of a boy whom loved the game that gave him a living, and a story of the fans of a game that can make even the most hardened men cry. Baseball is a game that is passed on from father to son, it is inherited, a birthright. In the day of baseball as a business, there are few who show the passion and love for the sport they play as much as Jose did. This is what we mourn today. We mourn a life cut short, we mourn an ace whom had only scratched the surface, and we mourn having real life seep into the games of our escape.
Athletes are larger than life, real life super-heroes, and so it is difficult to understand how one can fall. On his fourth and final attempt to leave Cuba, he would be awakened by the call to help one of his fellow passengers that had fallen overboard, this would turn out to be his mother. He learned a language that was foreign and left behind a family that would have to watch from afar as he worked to achieve the life he deserved. The prospect of a multi-million dollar contract was not his greater purpose in playing the game, on a field full of professional men, he was at heart still the boy that knew this was still a game. His smile was infectious and his love of life is evident by the lack of words his fellow players have to explain what happened and the tears flowing down the cheeks of a manager that few knew even had tear ducts. Don Mattingly showed today that he is forever a changed man both for the loss he suffered and for the memories he will forever hold of a rambunctious pitcher, just learning to lead.
Ultimately the game will move on, with only memories of great things that always were and could have been. For this community, one that he embraced, and one that embraced him in return, this is a sting that will not soon heal. The game of baseball got a lot less fun today, as all over Miami, fathers and sons, grandfathers and grand-kids and the keepers of the game broke the news to each other. Memories of attending games with my father, were met by countless stories of how this game is a bond shared with fathers and Grandfathers, of how on a day like today you wish there was solace in the crack of a bat. But today that pitcher’s mound in Little Havana stood vacant, with the exception of a lone Marlins cap, and the #16. Baseball is bigger than any one man, but to many children he was the game. He was poetry in motion, and he is gone much too soon.