The first thing I saw when I woke up yesterday morning and picked up my phone was that I had an email from a producer for BBC World News. He wanted to know if I would do a pre-recorded Skype session, as a Marlins fan and editor here, "paying tribute" to José Fernàndez. Confused and still brain-fogged, I noticed more notifications. I read through a couple texts and skipped the rest: Something unfathomable had happened. I hopped out of bed, poorly assuaging my wife that everything was fine and raced to turn on the TV. I checked twitter sources for confirmation while I waited for SportsCenter to come back on: The first couple were not good enough, but then, Clark Spencer and Ken Rosenthal had both confirmed. A somber round table of panelists appeared upon my TV screen.
It was true. José Fernàndez had died.
Now, after having sifted through countless tweets, articles and videos, working at my day job and simultaneously engaging in the conversation with the Fish Stripes staff about what to write, what was appropriate, what was not, editing articles, and finally, simply sitting in front of my computer crying at the dining room table next to my wife, we’ve arrived at day two...and it still doesn’t feel real to me.
Like I still expect to see José Fernàndez appear on the mound today.
I know, rationally, of course, that isn’t going to be the case. Human beings are interesting creatures when it comes to coping mechanisms. One of said mechanisms that I employed yesterday was diving into my work. I must confess, some moments were more successful than others.
You’ve probably seen the comparisons by now. Fernàndez, overnight, has become this generation’s Roberto Clemente or Thurman Munson; a player whose career and life was cut tragically short before their due time. Clemente played in 17 seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Munson in 10 for the New York Yankees. José would only end up playing parts of four seasons, but no one would deny him his rightful place amongst those two superstars. He may yet still win the Cy Young, after all.
What makes this so tough for everyone, even if you aren’t a Marlins fan or even a baseball fan, is that José was such a good person. He was heavily involved in Miami area charities. He was accessible for the fans. He took extra time out of his day to spend time with kids at the ballpark before Sunday home games. He saved his own mother from drowning. In an era where it is no longer common place, he handed out hugs and kisses to his teammates with affectionate ease.
Life was not easy for him growing up and José could’ve easily had a grudge against it. Instead, he wore his love for life on his sleeve and shared it with everyone he came across.
It’s almost cliche at this point to say that some light has gone out of the world, but it doesn’t make it any less true. What makes it devastating for us that are left behind is that, while we know that there were those who brought light with their lives in the past, and those yet to come who will bring light in the future, José Fernàndez was the light of our times, of our lives, and the world that we know is a lesser place with his passing.
To paraphrase Giancarlo Stanton: Rest easy, Niño.