It was a tough night for the Miami Marlins last night.
Despite beating the Mets 7-3 and gaining ground in the Wild Card chase, this game was not about winning or losing or the final score. It was about honoring the memory of Jose Fernandez after he tragically lost his life early on Sunday morning.
Miami’s 24-year-old ace was the heart and soul of this organization, and he was loved by every single one of his teammates and coaches. That was more than obvious last night as many of them broke down in tears during pre-game ceremonies which included a moving tribute video accompanied by a single trumpet playing "Take me out to the ballgame."
Then something happened which only Hollywood could have scripted. When stepping up to the plate for the first Marlins at-bat of the game, Dee Gordon wore Fernandez’s helmet for the first pitch, and then homered two pitches later. What a time for his first home run of the season.
The Marlins would go on to collect 14 hits and two walks in the victory - yes, that equals 16 total baserunners, the same number worn by Fernandez and adored by the people of south Florida, especially those with Cuban ties, where the star pitcher was born.
This game had everything: Passion, theatricality, joy and a strong home crowd...everything that Jose would have wanted.
The tributes to one of Miami’s best ever players were tasteful and poignant, and they epitomized the young right-hander’s huge impact on the franchise and the local community in such a short time beautifully. It really was the perfect send-off.
The next move, undoubtedly, is to retire his number 16. Owner Jeffrey Loria alluded to it yesterday, but it really should happen. For those still waiting for a good-will gesture from Mr. Loria after all these years, no move would have more of a positive impact on the local area than the highest honor a team can bestow upon a player.
And so, as this article comes to an end, it is time to say goodbye, Jose Fernandez. Thank you for everything you brought to baseball over the past three and a half years.
Do not be sad because it’s over, smile because it happened.
That is definitely what Jose would do.