Editor's note: This piece by Dakota Schmidt is inspired by this Grantland article on Jose Fernandez's struggle to arrive in the United States and play professional baseball. It is also a continuation in theme of this piece by Andrew Townes from earlier this year. -MJ
The story of tragedy, redemption, and triumph is in the inner core of what truly makes us human. The struggles and pain that we go through in the worst possible times of our lives can be thankless and heartbreaking if there wasn't that one shining light that you can look through during the darkest times. No matter how big or small that light is, it gives you a glimmer of hope of how wonderful life could be if you keep on trudging through that miserable period of time.
Those stories of tragedy is in the heart of the people who are brave enough to call themselves fans of the Miami Marlins. The feeling of seeing that crystal ball of hope shine bright in your eyes only to be tossed away has become a trait that makes the loyal fans who they are. Seeing the dark and gloomy present is antagonizing but also hopeful and inspiring in a way because there's that one small light that glistens deep in that murky tunnel. That one real hope of brighter days rests on the shoulders of some terrific young men who could become great players, but it still rests on the shoulder of a 20 year old Cuban named Jose Fernandez who has a life story that's suitable for a box office redemption story.
Five years before he dazzled fans with a teeth shattering cutter, Jose Fernandez was a 15-year-old Cuban resident who was making that grueling trip from the communist state to the land of the free. Trying to reunite with his father who successfully defected in 2005, Jose was still focused on making that courageous leap despite being jailed after previous attempts because he was "Being a traitor to Fidel Castro". During that fourth attempt, Fernandez leaped into the bitter waters of the Gulf of Mexico to save the life of his mother who was knocked overboard by the fierce waters.
After making the journey out of Cuba, Fernandez and family made their stop in Tampa, Florida where he was reunited with the same man he didn't see for three long years.
Five years after putting his life in danger to make his way to the United States, Fernandez is now looked at as the man who will lead Miami's story of redemption. In the face of struggling attendance and merciless ownership, fans will try to look into that sparkling light as they look at a band of young and upstart prospects (Fernandez, Marcell Ozuna, Jacob Turner, Christian Yelich, Jake Marisnick, etc.) to lead the team back to that same glory we saw ten years ago.
Since being added to the team in a surprising and risky spring training move, Marlins management put aside the norms to call-up Fernandez to start out the 2013 season. Of course, that risk worked like magic for Miami thanks to his solid 2.75 ERA and 3.22 FIP. The one thing holding Fernandez back from perfection is the less than stellar 9.4 percent walk rate.
Despite that, Fernandez has slowly turned into Miami's next ace of the staff after dealing Ricky Nolasco. The jury is still out on his future in the MLB because his sudden rise to power is eerily reminiscent of former Marlin Dontrelle Willis in the early to mid 2000's.
While the use of the word "savior" may seem a little bit too far fetched, the right arm of the brave Cuban defector will be looked at and relied upon to lead these new crop of Marlins youngsters to the next generation.