Too often in life do we find ourselves misunderstanding the behavior of those around us. Sometimes, we feel as though people act a certain way because they are trying to express a certain level of malcontent. And that is part of why Marlins infielder Chris Johnson just didn't understand the depth of Jose Fernandez's personality.
The day was September 11, 2013. The Marlins were at home playing the Atlanta Braves. It was during this game where José launched his first career home run. As many players do, José took a very slow jog around the diamond right after he emphatically flipped his bat. Given that he was a rookie at the time, the Braves were not afraid to express their disapproval. Amongst those who were most ticked off by Fernández was Chris Johnson, who was playing third base for the Braves at the time. Johnson was so angry he sprinted toward José just as both benches began to clear. Johnson would later tell the Miami Herald's Clark Spencer exactly why he was so upset:
"It was because I was getting out every single time, and there was this guy standing out there — Jose. I’m grinding. I’m trying to get a hit as hard as I can, and he’s out there having a good time, smiling, laughing, doing whatever he wants on the baseball field. He hit homers against us. He's striking us out. He's getting wins. That's the reason why everybody gets so upset, is because he's so good."
That, perhaps, is one of the best depictions of Fernández's on-field presence that we have seen thus far. As I previously stated, it's very easy for us as humans to misjudge certain types of behavior, and this is one of those examples. At the time of the bench-clearing incident, Johnson did not know José as a person. All he saw was this young kid who appeared as though he was being a bit too cocky during his rookie season.
What Johnson didn't realize at the time was that when José smiled, pumped his fist, or celebrated in any other exuberant manner, it wasn't an attempt to show up the other team. He was simply that ecstatic to be playing (and succeeding) in the game that he loved...something that Major League Baseball could use a lot more of. Over time, baseball has been characterized as a stoic game that doesn't pack as much excitement as other professional sports such as football and basketball. With the current influx of young superstars taking over the game, perhaps the tide has begun to turn a little.
José reminded us all of what it truly means to enjoy what's in front of us. This was a man who risked his life to achieve the freedom that the vast majority of us were born with. Instead of carrying resentment or anger, José kept with him an assortment of incredibly positive traits that made him such an extraordinary person. If we can learn anything from the initial misgivings between Fernández and Johnson, it is to think before we judge the entirety of a person's character. After all, if Johnson had maintained a closed mind towards José's glittery personality, he would have never gained the great friend he found in the late superstar when he was acquired by the Marlins in 2016.