Heroes get remembered, but legends never die

Terrel Emerson

One of the youngest, brightest stars in baseball lost his life in a tragic boating accident leaving fans and the entire Major League Baseball at a loss for words.

Miami Marlins’ pitcher Jose Fernandez was pronounced dead after a 30-foot boat was found flipped over an embankment. He was only 24 years old.

Cerritos College pitching coach Ben Gonzalez said, “Anywhere in life not just [sports], when somebody that dies being that age is just tragic. He didn’t get to fulfill his life. As far as the men we have here it has definitely impacted them, it shows them that we are not invincible. Anything can happen at any time.”

Two other men were on the boat with Fernandez and also died at the scene, however, their names have not been released yet until confirmation is received from each victim’s family.

The accident occurred midmorning Sunday, Sept. 25. Police officers did not get the call of the overturned vessel until around 6 a.m. That is where they found the three victims.

The entire baseball world was in total shock regarding the star’s untimely death. Less than week before the accident, Fernandez had just announced that his girlfriend was pregnant via an Instagram post.

The Marlins canceled the regularly scheduled game that day against the Atlanta Braves. Instead, the team placed a lone hat and flowers on the mound just above an inscribed No. 16 on the pitching mound. The No. 16 was Fernandez’s jersey number.

At different points surrounding the stadium, fans by the dozen came and dropped off pictures, jerseys, notes and flowers in honor of Fernandez. The overwhelming outpour of support for not only Fernandez’s family but the entire Marlins’ organization has been well-documented.

Fernandez was a Cuban-born player whose story inspired anyone who heard it. He attempted to defect from Cuba three times before finally being successful. His persistence toward chasing his lifelong dream was inspirational to many.

Many people like Cerritos College pitcher Valentin Flores.

“He’s one of my idols,” Flores said. “He was Cuban so he was apart of the Latin community and I’m Latin. So it was just crazy because he was a guy I looked up to and wanted to be like.”

He added, “He showed me that anything was possible. You can come from nowhere to becoming big.”

Flores also called Fernandez’s passing “devastating.”

During the fourth and final attempt to flee Cuba, Fernandez noticed that a person on another boat had fallen overboard. At just 15 years old, he sprung into action jumping into the water and swimming to rescue the person in distress. Upon reaching the person Fernandez was shocked to find out it was his own mother.

The loss of Fernandez has left people pondering what could have been for the young superstar in the making.

Flores said, “He was just getting started. A lot of people talked about him being a future hall of famer.”

Gonzalez viewed Fernandez in a different way, his pitching style in a more technically sound sort of way.

“Mechanically he was compared to a great pitcher by the name of Dwight Gooden. He just had an incredible arm speed, great core, great legs and great strength. He was really aggressive, he went after hitters like nobody else. He believed in himself and he had confidence,” he said.

He also agreed that Fernandez was “well on his way to being a Hall of Fame pitcher.”

At just 24 years of age, Fernandez had already captured the 2013 National League Rookie of the Year and was named an All-Star twice.

In just four years of service for the MLB, Fernandez had compiled an overall record of 38-17 with a 2.58 ERA. Those numbers are what most people are having the hardest time accepting because it looked as if he was destined for greatness.

One day after the tragic news, the Marlins took to the field in Fernandez honor. His legacy was felt around the stadium like never before. All of his teammates donned his No. 16 black alternate jersey with the team’s white home pants.

Before the game, Marlins’ shortstop Dee Gordon took a moment to stand and kneel at the pitching mound again donning the No. 16 and a lone Marlins’ baseball cap. Gordon overcome with emotion was seen from different angles simply glaring at the mound and crying.

In the first at-bat for the Marlins since the passing of their ace, it was Gordon who stepped into the batter’s box. Gordon, who is a switch-hitting batter (bats both left and right handed), came up batting right-handed and took the first pitch.

After seeing the pitch he stepped out of the box and changed batting helmets. It was then that everyone realized Gordon was wearing Fernandez’s batting helmet. Two pitches later Gordon launched his first home run of the season and was immediately struck with more tears.

The Marlins’ would go on to win the game over the Mets 7-3. After the game Mattingly said, “This is [Fernandez’s] day. This is [Fernandez’s] night.”