I’m supposed to write about today’s games. I’m supposed to give you picks and analysis. I can’t. Not today.
I never met Jose Fernandez and probably never would have. I admired his talent from afar, like most baseball fans. He was explosive. He was dynamic. He had swagger and backed it up with an arsenal of pitches that was unfair to opposing hitters. Now, it’s unfair that we never get to see him pitch again. It’s even more unfair that the child that his girlfriend is pregnant with will never get to meet his or her father.
There are so many mysteries in life. So much that we can’t explain, like how a 24-year-old in the prime of his career, who tried to defect from Cuba four different times to start a life, a career, and, eventually, a family, was taken from his family, friends, loved ones, teammates, the baseball world, and the world in general on the morning of Sunday September 25.
If you don’t know the Jose Fernandez backstory, you soon will. Tributes are pouring in across the internet and many feature the day that he saved his drowning mother while trying to make his way to the United States. He didn’t even know it was her. He just jumped in the water to save a stranger that turned out to be his mom. Others will show the day that he reunited with his grandmother. He had not seen her since he left Cuba. Many of you will cry, much like I did, even though you’ve never had any interaction with him. I cried the day I first saw it. I definitely cried today.
There’s also the level of joy that he played with. The kid with the Cooperstown smile. He had fun playing the game. He had fun trading accomplishments with the best of the best. He smiled when he gave up a 425-foot dinger and smiled right back when he hit one of his own. He went crazy over the accomplishments of his teammates. By all accounts, he was a better person than a player, and we’re talking about a top-10 pitcher in Major League Baseball. That’s no small feat. He’ll be remembered by the masses as the guy with the 97 mph fastball and the wipeout breaking ball, but those that knew him will remember what really mattered. The kid who saved his mother from rough seas. The kid who made coming to the ballpark every day bearable with his zest for life.
We celebrate athletes in so many ways. Those that have always enjoyed sports have been putting athletes on a pedestal since we were small children. Our moods change with their accomplishments. Somehow, even though we’ve never met most of them, they become a huge part of our lives. I assure you that there are Marlins fans out there that are more shaken by this than they would be by the death of a close family member. There are people that aren’t even Marlins fans that are taking this the same way. Fans of talent. Fans of good people. Fans of life.
Jose Fernandez certainly seemed to love life. As sports fans, we gravitate towards talent, but we also gravitate towards the people that have fun showcasing their talents for the world. That’s part of the reason why we feel losses like this and to the degree that we do. We think of players as numbers. We think of players as people paid to entertain us. We rarely think of them as human beings, with families and the same problems, if not more, that the rest of us have. Maybe they make more money. Maybe they’re supremely talented. They’re also put on exhibition for everybody to see, even if their mothers or fathers are slowly dying in another part of the country or the world or if they’re away from their kids and significant others for months out of the year or if they’re going through a divorce.
You don’t have to look hard to find sobering reminders about the realities of life. People aren’t just speaking in clichés when it comes to death. Each and every one of us is guilty of taking moments for granted. Of taking loved ones for granted. Of taking opportunities for granted. Of taking seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, and months for granted.
This isn’t what you came here to read. You may not care about what was written here. But, today is about more than baseball. Every day is about more than baseball, but there are days like today when that really rings true. I hope you understand. I’ll get back to baseball tomorrow.
Rest in peace, Jose Fernandez.