The atmosphere in Miami on Monday was not that of a baseball game. It was gloomy, quiet and hard to put into words as all in attendance grieved the passing of 24-year-old Jose Fernandez early Sunday morning.
Even though the Mets are in a playoff race for one of the Wild Card spots in the NL, baseball wasn't the reason to meet at Marlins Park. It was to get back to a somewhat sense of normalcy. This will not happen today, nor tomorrow, but it has to start somewhere. Jose, who loved baseball and played with so much passion, would've wanted baseball to go on.
It all started well before the game time of Monday's contest between the NL East foes. For a day, New York and Miami are not enemies. They are just a few of the many people in mourning of a life lost way too soon.
In fact, the two teams met on the field and exchanged hugs and whatever words they could muster before a pitch was ever thrown. "Fernandez" jerseys were hung in the respective dugouts. Balloons, signs, hats and everything in between with "Jose", "JF" and "JDF16" filled the stadium.
All of the Marlin players and staff paid their respects to Jose with his number 16 jersey and the name "Fernandez" across their backs. Majestic Athletic had these jerseys made and shipped overnight. They arrived right before the first pitch.
Giancarlo Stanton led the rest of the Marlins as they circled and huddled the mound prior to the start of the game with tears rolling down their faces. Words were said, hugs were had, and baseball had be to played.
Lead-off man Dee Gordon came to the plate wearing a helmet with Jose's "16" on it. Gordon, a lefty, stepped into the right side of the box and honored his fallen teammate with the game's first pitch. He switched to his normal side and inexplicably hit his first home run of the season. He didn't even make it beyond first base before his emotions took over.
Gordon said after the game, "That is the furthest I have ever hit a ball... I don't know what that was.".
Jose was definitely in attendance; not in body, but certainly in spirit.
The stats were not important in this game, but the Fish went on to a 7-0 start, scoring in each of the first three innings.
Gordon finished 4-for-5. Teammate Justin Bour went 3-for-3, including his first triple of his professional career. He was a home run shy of the Marlins' first cycle in franchise history.
New York added some runs late, but A.J. Ramos shut the door in the ninth for the 7-3 victory.
The Fish, just as they did to start the game, huddled arm in arm around the mound at the completion of the game. They laid their hats on the mound Jose was supposed to start on, manager Don Mattingly kissed the dirt and the team dragged themselves off the field.
Tonight wasn't a game, but a celebration of life and love for a young man who meant so much to so many. There were very few laughs, many stories and mostly tears.
This win, and all of the wins to come, are for you, Jose. Rest in peace.