Santa Clara, Cuba. The birthplace of one Jose D. Fernandez on July 31, 1992.
Miami, Florida. The place where that very same young man would perish along with two others in a tragic boating accident in the early morning hours of September 25, 2016 at the age of just 24 years old.
Years leading up to that tragic morning was a life filled with success as a Major League baseball player for the Miami Marlins. Success that saw him win the National League Rookie of the Year award in 2013 as well as two All Star selections in 2013 and most recently the 2016 season. He also finished third in the NL Cy Young voting his rookie season. Like most rises to stardom for any athlete – obstacles arose early on. For Jose Fernandez, that obstacle was one all too common in the game for a pitcher.
Tommy John surgery sidelined him for five months of the 2014 season and most of the 2015 season. When he came back in September 2015, he continued what would become a new Major League record by winning his 17th consecutive game in his home park.
Jose Fernandez was a star. Jose Fernandez was also on his way to becoming a father for the first time before tragedy struck on a channel nearing the port of Miami early Sunday morning just hours after the Marlins faced the Atlanta Braves Saturday evening. Just five days earlier, Fernandez had announced he and his girlfriend were expecting.
This was all who Jose Fernandez was as a baseball player. As one of the up and coming stars in the game. But it was just a small sample size of how this young man lived. If you look back before he dawned a Miami Marlins uniform after being drafted in the first round of the 2011 amateur draft, you’ll see a much more somber and sobering story.
Before his family finally settled in Tampa, Florida back in 2008 – Fernandez made three unsuccessful attempts to defect from Cuba, each time having to spend a stint in a Cuban jail. His mother and sister finally were able to defect to Mexico in 2007 before making the move to Tampa a year later where Jose attended Alonso High School.
When looking over the life of Jose Fernandez, most will see a successful run as a Major League ball player that came to a tragic end. Most will see a young man who got a second, third, and fourth chance to come to a country where he could live his dream of playing professionally the sport he’d grown up playing in Santa Clara, Cuba. While no signs of alcohol or drugs were found at the crash site, there may still arise some questions about such a tragedy that took three, young lives far too soon.
Could it have been avoided? Why were they riding at three o’clock in the morning at what’s being reported as most likely maximum speeds in the dark down a channel in Miami? These are questions that plenty will no doubt be wondering for a long time.
Reading through the dozens of stories on the life and death of this young man – career statistics are littered throughout most of them. But they aren’t the focal point nor should they be. It was a short career – but a full life. At just 24 years old, Jose Fernandez was on his way to becoming a father and quite possibly one of the best pitchers in the last decade the game had ever seen. When we step back and take a look at who this young man was, remember where he came from. Remember what he overcame. At just 15 years old, a Cuban defector who did whatever it took to get his family into this country and eventually live the dream of so many who came before him.
Jose D. Fernandez – you shall be missed.