On September 26, a Monday, Marlins ace Jose Fernandez was supposed to start versus the Mets after an extra day of rest. Fernandez was instead killed in a boating accident just the day before. Miami canceled their home game against the Braves, everyone obviously torn apart by the sudden passing of their team leader. Nobody expected the Marlins to play again this season. The Marlins played the game the next day in honor of Fernandez.
Before the game, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria announced, “Nobody will wear [number 16] again. I can tell you that.” Miami retired his number right outside of the park and allowed anyone and everyone to lay flowers, gifts, leave notes and letters, etc. for Fernandez around his name and number. After this, the team announced that the entire Marlins team would be wearing a Fernandez jersey for the game, honoring their best friend as a group. If that isn’t sad enough, the pregame and game that was played was even more gut-wrenching.
Miami held a very emotional pregame ceremony for Fernandez. To start off, they had just eight starters head out to the mound for the ceremony. Note that it was only eight starters, no pitcher. They played a video on the videoboard, a choir sang the National Snthem, and the PA announcer spoke about Jose’s life and everything that has happened in the last day.
After the ceremony was held, both the entire Marlins and Mets teams went out onto the field and hugged one another: players, coaches and managers all included, everybody. That moment only clarified that it’s bigger than baseball. Following this, the Mets went back to their dugout, letting Miami’s players go out to the mound as a team, where the number 16 was painted on the dirt. The entire team huddled around together, hands on each other’s backs, and drew #16 with their fingers in the dirt. Then, as a team, they all stood up, still around the mound, and put their hands together in the air and pointed up to the heavens. The cameras showed a teary-eyed Giancarlo Stanton tell his teammates to “do it for Jose.”
Miami’s starting pitcher pitching in place of Fernandez, Adam Conley, only pitched three innings, but considering the situation, he did phenomenal. He didn’t look shaken, uncomfortable, or even bad for that matter. It was announced before the game that Conley would only go three or four innings, respectively. As Conley left the mound after the third inning, he knelt down at the mound and rubbed the number 16 painted on the mound and pointed to the sky before heading back to the dugout.
Just minutes after Conley said goodbye to Fernandez from the mound, Dee Gordon did the unthinkable. Gordon bat leadoff in this game and was one of Fernandez’ best friends. He’s been visibly rattled by the passing of his teammate. The bat boy brought out Jose Fernandez’ old batting helmet for Gordon to wear for one pitch, and Gordon then switched over to the right batter’s box, all in honor of Fernandez. Prior to the second pitch, nobody thought much of it. Just a nice tribute to his late friend. Then, he did the unimaginable.
He went swinging for the fences on that second pitch and took Colon deep to right field for his first home run of the season. Rounding the bases, Gordon kept his head down while running, and upon reaching home plate, he looked and pointed up to the sky with tears streaming down his face and proceeded to hug all of his teammates. Gordon certainly isn’t known for his power, so this was absolutely incredible. This was one of the greatest moments in the history of the game, putting everything into consideration. His best friend died just the day before and he was the most visibly distraught out of his teammates. It’s hard to describe, but it was one of the most unreal things anyone has ever witnessed in sports.
In the end, Miami won the game 7-3, coming out to a early 5-0 lead in the third inning. They were hitting Colon left and right, with Justin Bour just a home run away from the cycle by the fifth inning. The Marlins had a total of 16, yes 16, baserunners on the night. Dee Gordon went 4-5, the night’s storyline. The Marlins offense exploded, most certainly in honor of Fernandez.
How Miami had the strength to go out there and play, I will never know. That team has gone through the unthinkable, losing such a young, talented player and such a loving, energetic man so suddenly. The baseball world has been shaken up by his passing, fans even emotional and wrecked by this without knowing Fernandez personally. Nobody outside of the team can understand what they are going through and what they will continue to go through for a long time.
Baseball will never fully recover from Jose Fernandez’ unforeseen death, but all the league can do is play on in memory of him. All the Marlins can do is continue to reflect, remember, honor and play for Jose. This is bigger than baseball. We are all Marlins fans.