I was studying abroad when I heard the news that Jose Fernandez was involved in a tragic boating accident just under three years ago. All I remember from that tragic day was running to the few other Florida people on my program looking to be consoled. This news stung so much. It tore at my heart and ruined my day. Despite being a Mets fan, I grew up and live in South Florida, and I just couldn’t help loving Jose Fernandez. There was one simple rule my dad had for me and my siblings – you don’t have to love baseball, but, if you do, you have to root for the Mets. Well, dad, I broke that rule every fifth day — because Jose was exciting enough to make me want the Marlins to win.
Jose Fernandez would have turned twenty-seven today.
When I was reminded of this I just broke down and started crying. I have respect for many non-Mets players, mostly due how they play baseball. However, Jose was the first non-Mets player I actively loved, and rooted for — I just couldn’t help it.
The anniversary of Jose’s death will probably create a lot of discussion on whether his death was the catalyst to the Marlins most-recent fire sale. I implore everyone to save that conversation for another time. Instead I want to focus on why Jose was so great for baseball, and not just as a player. Showing how great he was is boring; if I wanted to do that I would just quote facts: like how he pitched to a career 150 ERA+, 2.44 FIP, and accumulated 14.0 bWAR in just 76 career games. His stuff was electric. However, Jose would have made the perfect face for Major League Baseball. He cared so much about the game, he had that fire-y passion each time he stepped on the field, he loved the fans, played baseball the “right way”, and had that infectious smile that could even make Mets fans love him.
Jose even worked his way into two of my favorite baseball memories from my life. The first being when he pitched in the best game I’ve ever been to. The Marlins beat the Mets 1-0 in a thrilling pitcher duel, which featured Fernandez vs Matt Harvey. Fernandez threw seven innings of shutout ball and struck out fourteen; it was the single-greatest individual performance I have seen, as well. The second was when a few friends and I skipped school to watch a spring training matchup featuring Jose starting against Jacob Degrom. Even though the Mets took that one, and I had fun at my friends’ expense, it was still so exciting to watch Fernandez pitch. Both games left me with the takeaway that Jose was such a rare combination of talent and personality, and is worth rooting for despite my loyalties to the Mets.
Jose may have always been a thorn in the Mets’ side (in eight games against Fernandez, the Mets combined for a .478 OPS). However, it was impossible to not love him. I really wish Jose was still around to be the face of the Marlins and all of baseball in today’s game. All I can say is this: I know I would still be a Marlins fan once every fifth day, just so I could root for Jose. I am so happy I grew up in South Florida and got to witness him pitch on several occasions.
Jose, you are missed by the whole baseball community. Happy twenty-seventieth.
Photo Credit: “thefamouspeople.com”