The baseball world lost one of its most prominent figures, as Miami Marlins’ ace pitcher Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating accident early Sunday morning at the age of 24.
The 2013 National League Rookie of the Year was on a 32-foot long boat with two of his friends, both of whom were also killed, before hitting into a jetty and capsizing off the coast of Miami Beach.
Fernandez fled from Cuba in 2008, his fourth attempt in leaving the country, and quickly became one of the best pitchers in the league.
Fernandez was well-known not just for his untouchable skill, but because he was full of life on the diamond and in the clubhouse.
“Thinking of Jose, it’s gonna be thinking of that little kid. I see such a little boy in him with the way he played,” said first-year Marlins Manager, Don Mattingly. “There’s just joy with him when he played.”
Anthony DiComo, a New York Mets beat writer for MLB.com, tweeted, “I’ve never heard a soul in the baseball or sportswriting worlds utter a bad word about Fernandez. Honestly. Can’t tell you how rare that is.”
Another beat writer, Jon Heyman of MLB Network, tweeted, “He was a showman, not showoff. If someone homered off him, he’d smile, tip cap. #class.”
A statement was released by the the Marlins owner, Jeff Loria, on Sunday. “Sadly, the brightest lights are often the ones that extinguish the fastest. Jose left us far too soon, but his memory will endure in all of us,” he said.
Mattingly added more thoughts on the extroverted 24-year-old.
“As mad as he would make you with some of the stuff he would do, you just see that little kid that you see when you watch kids play little league or something like that. That’s the joy that Jose played with,” Mattingly said. “The passion he felt about playing, that’s what I think about.”
Jose Fernandez was slated to pitch Sunday against the Atlanta Braves, but was instead pushed back to Monday night against the Mets. Instead, the Marlins honored their fallen ace by having every player wear his number, No. 16, in Monday’s game.
In wake of his death, the Marlins cancelled their game against the Braves on Sunday, and all games across MLB on Sunday held a moment of silence.
The odds that No. 16 will be the first number retired by the organization are likely.
“Nobody will wear that number again,” said Loria.
The mound at Marlins Park has an inscribed “16” behind it, and pitchers across the MLB honored the pitcher by writing their own “16”s in the dirt behind the mound at their respective games
The Marlins strted wearing a patch on their jerseys to honor Fernandez on Tuesday.
Flowers were placed outside of Marlins Park, along with written messages to the pitcher by the fans in Miami.
Marlins infielder Martin Prado reflected on Fernandez and praised his attitude.
“He made an impact on every single person on this team in different ways,” Prado said while remembering Fernandez. “One of the guys told a story today that he told one of his teammates that the last game he pitched against the Nationals was his best game ever pitched, and now he’s gone.”
In that game against the National League East champions last week, he struck out 12 batters in eight shutout innings.
The Marlins were officially eliminated from postseason contention last night, just several hours after a public memorial service was held for Fernandez at Marlins Park.