As I make my way through the crowded dining hall, my body there, but my mind down in Miami, I watch on my phone as the opening ceremonies to tonight’s Mets-Marlins game commence. My body on autopilot, putting food on my plate whilst my attentions was completely on the game. This moment was bigger than life, bigger than baseball, bigger than all of us.
Looking around and seeing all of those Fernández jerseys worn by his teammates was quite special to see. You couldn’t look at one person in that stadium and not see the grief on their faces. They had lost a teammate, a friend, a brother. There was so much love and support for Fernández not only in the stadium, but around the baseball world. People everywhere, including myself, tuning in to mourn and celebrate the life of José Fernández.
The ceremony was short, yet touching. Watching the Marlins take the field with heavy hearts was brutal to witness. The players surrounded the mound and everyone removed their caps as they held a moment of silence for José. It was gut-wrenching to watch his teammates weep into their hats as they stood out there on the field during the silence and then as “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” began to play. I’ve never heard such a fun, lighthearted song be played in such an eerie, somber manner.
Afterwards, came the National Anthem, which was sung beautifully by the Carrollton Choir. Following that, the Mets came out to hug and give their condolences to the Marlins, which was a very beautiful gesture to do. Seeing two teams put aside their competitive differences to celebrate the life of a wonderful human being.
As a tribute to José, all the Marlins players went to the mound and rubbed dirt onto their pants like José would always do, because he grew up not using a resin bag when he pitched, so he made due and would use dirt from the mound instead. Some of the players could even be seen writing the number 16 and little messages in the dirt in memory of their fallen teammate. Then afterwards, they all gathered behind the mound and shared an embrace while Giancarlo Stanton shared a few words with his team.
What really got to me was watching Giancarlo Stanton warm up in the outfield before the first inning began. He could hardly fight back the tears as he played catch. It was nearly unbearable for me to watch without getting choked up. Seeing a man who I always looked at as one of the biggest and strongest players I’ve seen break down and cry like that was too depressing to bear.
The game itself was too perfect and too fitting and I loved every moment of it, especially when it came to Dee Gordon’s performance because not only was a Marlins win great, but his performance left us with a perfect tribute to José Fernández. Dee Gordon to begin with, was one of the players who appeared most affected and distraught by this tragic event. I really felt for the guy. He had lost a good friend and it was really taking a toll on him. Seeing him a day earlier at the mound by himself, looking at the number 16 that was painted onto the mound, in utter disbelief. Watching him made me wish I could’ve just given him a hug through the screen. When he first got up to the plate, he stepped in right-handed, while wearing Fernández’s helmet as a tribute to teammate. He took the first pitch, for a ball, then switched helmets and sides. Gordon then found himself in a 2-0 count and proceeded to smack his first home run of the year to the upper deck in right to give the Marlins a quick 1-0 lead. As he was rounding the bases, I could see him crying the whole way around, bringing tears to my eyes as well. You simply can’t write this stuff. As he reached home plate he looked up to the sky, and to José as if to say, “that one’s for you.” Gordon reached the dugout, where he was greeted by hugs and high fives from his teammates, then proceeded to head into the locker room to have a moment to himself.
Gordon’s home run was great enough, but he went on to finish the game with four hits and two RBIs to lead the Marlins to a 7-3 victory. It was more than just a win, though, it was a win for José.
The death of José Fernández was a tragic loss of such a young and talented individual. I will surely never forget his time here on this Earth and I will certainly not forget this game for it was one of the most emotional games I have ever watched. Whoever said there was no crying in baseball clearly never experienced something like this.