Having worked in Major League Baseball off and on for the majority of my life I can tell you that no one is more shocked than the family of Baseball with the tragic passing of Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez. From February until September you are together with your teammates on a daily basis. Guys from all different backgrounds learn to get along, learn each others culture and most importantly learn to trust and count on each other.
I held a few different positions in baseball during my time, I was a bat boy for the Atlanta Braves, I was a Video Coordinator for the Kansas City Royals, Milwaukee Brewers and the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals. I have made life long friendships that cannot be replaced. It is going to take the Miami Marlins and all of Major League Baseball a long time to get past this tragedy.
Marlins Were Headed In The Right Direction
Jose Fernandez was not only the ace of the Marlins but he was arguably the best young pitcher in baseball. He reminded me of Felix Hernandez more and more every time he took the mound. He made hitters look over matched with his great fastball and chageup command.
The Marlins future looked so bright with Fernandez and Giancarlo Stanton, it looked like they had the best combination of hitter and pitcher in baseball. I was so eager to see both of them healthy for a full season and see if Fernandez could win the Cy Young and Stanton the MVP in the same season; it would have been something to see.
Fernandez played the game with joy and enthusiasm, sometimes that enthusiasm rubbed his opponents the wrong way. Just ask Brian McCann of the Yankees, while he was the Atlanta Braves catcher Fernandez in his final start of his rookie season “pimped” his first career home run. There had been some smack talking during the game between Fernandez and several Atlanta Braves.
Fernandez Always Kept Things Interesting
Fernandez relished in the smack talking, he loved getting into his opponents heads, it wasn’t enough that he had a plus 95 MPH fastball at the time. The benches cleared after Fernandez took a long Rickey Henderson type trot around the bases. Brian McCann lit into Fernandez verbally as Fernandez approached home plate and then all hell broke loose.
After the dust settled and the game was over Fernandez apologized not only to his teammates but to the Atlanta Braves and also to America. See the day all of that happened was September 11, 2013 and Fernandez was quoted as saying “I had a good year, and it ends up like this, on a day like today, which is really important to all American people; It’s something that is not right, and I’m embarrassed by it.”
Finally Started To Get It
Fernandez knew the importance of the day and the impact of his actions, he started to get “it”. He set up a meeting with McCann after the game in the tunnel of the stadium to clear the air and let McCann know that the emotions of the game had gotten the better of him.
That bad looking situation helped him gain the respect of his peers as he handled it like a seasoned pro behind closed doors and without the media involvement. Fernandez could have continued to act like a cocky kid and said some things that would have done nothing to cement his reputation among his peers but he took the high road and handled it like a man.
Jose Fernandez’s love and enthusiasm for the game will be truly missed, we can all only wonder what could have been? R.I.P. Jose Fernandez baseball needed you and will miss you.