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The Marlins need a Latino star to thrive

The outpouring of tributes for José Fernández on the anniversary of his death were a firm reminder that the new owners need to prioritize recruiting young Latino players.

MLB: Miami Marlins at San Diego Padres Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

José Fernández was not only popular in Miami because he was the best pitcher in Marlins history, and a player who had started his career at Cooperstown pace, he was also popular because of his background as a Cuban defector.

His charisma, intensity, and smile were also strong factors why Marlins Park would fill to near capacity every 'José Day’, but the main explanation was that so many people in the local community could relate to his story, and it led to almost more support for Fernández than the team itself.

As much of South Florida, and the rest of the baseball community, paused to remember the life of a transcendent player who meant so much to so many and was lost way too soon, it became obvious that the Marlins need another Latino star in order to get the attention of a huge portion of their fan base again.

Marlins Park has largely remained empty since the tragic events of just over one year ago. While losing so many games has not helped, local supporters simply have not had much to root for beside Giancarlo Stanton home runs. The team does not have another player which the large Latin American population in Miami has been able to latch onto like they did with José.

Stanton is the star of this team, and arguably the most popular player, but there has been the sense for quite a while that he will not be playing in a Marlins uniform for much longer. The same can be said for Marcell Ozuna, who is one of only two Latino players currently in the everyday lineup along with Miguel Rojas (who probably would not be starting games if J.T. Riddle was not out injured). José Ureña has emerged as a solid arm this year, but he does not yet have the star power to greatly increase gate revenues.

This is why Derek Jeter and Co. need to focus on signing young Latino talent, especially during the international signing period, which has produced the likes of Ozuna and Ureña in the last decade, but had been underutilized by the Marlins for a number of seasons until they signed the highly-regarded, 16 year-old shortstop Ynamol Mariñez a few months ago.

As seen during the World Baseball Classic earlier this year, the Latin American community comes out to see their fellow countrymen perform on the biggest stage in droves, and every time José Fernández was on the mound the home crowd would come to see him pitch despite the team's overall record. Therefore, if the Marlins started to field a team full of young, exciting Latino talent, they would sell more tickets, regardless of how much the team was winning (at first).

If the Marlins really are baseball's 'gateway to Latin America’, then the product on the field needs to start reflecting it. If that happens, the franchise would connect with a lot more of their fan base and the debt would be erased that much quicker.