On September 25, the sports world was shocked by the tragic death of Jose Fernandez. At just 24 years old, the Miami Marlins pitcher died in a tragic boating accident. Along with Fernandez, two others lost their lives that night. At the time of the incident, it was unclear what exactly caused the fatal boat crash. Now, a month later, reports are indicating that alcohol and cocaine were found to be involved.
ESPN.com states that a toxicology report from the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner Department showed that Fernandez had cocaine in his system, along with other substances. Additionally, his blood alcohol content was almost two times the legal limit, at .147. Emilio Jesus and Eduardo Rivero, the two friends of Fernandez who were also killed in the accident, both had alcohol in their systems but were both below the legal limit. Rivero’s blood also contained cocaine. It’s unclear who was operating the boat that night, though investigators have substantial evidence that Fernandez was not.
The situation in its entirety is truly saddening. Fernandez was a remarkable player and an outstanding person. While I do not condone the use of cocaine, nor the use of alcohol when operating any motor vehicle, no one can take away what Fernandez did on and off the baseball diamond.
Fernandez attempted to defect from Cuba three times. After being caught each time, Fernandez was forced to serve a prison sentence. On his final, and successful attempt, Fernandez’s mother fell overboard. The youngster dove into rough waters to save his mother’s life. He and his family reached Mexico and then moved to the United States.
After his senior year in high school, the Miami Marlins drafted Fernandez with the 14th overall pick, in the first round. Just before the start of the 2013 season, Baseball America listed Fernandez as the Marlins’ No. 1 prospect, and the No. 5 prospect in all of the baseball. His rookie season was phenomenal, with a 4.2 WAR and placing top 10 in several pitching statistical categories for the National League. His career overall was tremendous. In four years as the Marlins main attraction, he went 38-17 with a 2.86 ERA. In 471.1 total innings pitched, Fernandez gave up a mere 31 home runs.
I witnessed several Jose Fernandez outings. He was a pleasure to watch and was talented beyond belief.
Jose Fernandez played the game of baseball with a true passion. His enthusiasm and love for the game were rivaled by none. He worked hard, cared deeply and played with 100% effort. The young man was an inspiration to all who wanted to play the game and even to those who were already playing it. Even more so, he went above and beyond to help others that weren’t as fortunate as he was.
Fernandez gave not just money, but his also time to many charities and organizations. He touched the lives of kids with cancer, being involved with Live Like Bella, a childhood cancer organization. Fernandez was a well-known supporter of multiple ALS charities. He even invited kids from the local area to Sunday home games. These are kids that would have never had the opportunity to experience baseball. These kids got to hang out on the field, and spend time with the team in the dugout. Many children were impacted by the heart of Jose Fernandez.
To commemorate the doings of Fernandez on and off the field, the Miami Marlins announced that they would retire his number 16 jersey. It will be the first retired number by the club, aside from Jackie Robinson’s No. 42, which has been retired by every team in the league.
It hurts me beyond words to know that he made unacceptable choices on that tragic night. Drugs and alcohol aside, this young man made an impact on this world. His heart was as powerful as his arm. I would hate to see anyone try to take that away from him, just because of a bad choice. Who among us can say that we’ve lived without making a mistake? Let us not condemn the life of Jose Fernandez based on this incident. Instead, let us celebrate the life of a young man who brought joy to the world, both on and off the baseball diamond.