Jose Fernandez, one of the best pitchers in baseball, died early Sunday morning in a boating accident off Miami Beach. He leaves behind a mother, a girlfriend, friends, teammates and a way of life that will be missed by many.
“Everyone saw it. What you saw is what you had,” Marlins analyst Carl Pavano said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “Precious kid, 24 years old, going about his business. Obviously all the publications and stories about him defecting from Cuba and saving his mom – my heart really goes out to (his family). His mother was building a life with him here in America and now he’s gone. She’s still here. It’s devastating. It really is.”
Fernandez’s teammates would often marvel at his appreciation for all things.
“Every interview was a blessing and appreciative,” Pavano said. “He had a maturity that was well beyond his years. He’s still 24 and still had growing up in other ways to do, but all those things would come. But his maturity for life and competition and being a good teammate, those are things that you just saw on a day-to-day basis.”
The Marlins (77-78) canceled Sunday’s home game against Atlanta. They host the Mets (83-73) on Monday at 7:10 p.m. ET.
“I can’t imagine the Marlins having to take the field today,” Pavano said. “I’ve never experienced anything like this. Sometimes getting on that field for those four hours is some therapy. You get away from everything and you get between the lines. I’m not trying to be insensitive, but sometimes (when) some things you’re going through maybe off the field are tough, you get between those lines, it’s really a time that you could focus and really let your mind not wander and kind of get you away from that stuff. But reality will set in afterward and they’ll deal with that. I’m just hoping that they take some solstice from getting out there and just competing again. Trying to mourn his loss is just going to be tough.”
Fernandez, a two-time All-Star and the 2013 NL Rookie of the Year, went 38-17 with a 2.58 ERA and 589 strikeouts in 471 and 1/3 innings in his career. He also brought togetherness and unity to the clubhouse.
“He was that guy,” Pavano said. “He’s an intangible that you really can’t replace. You’re wondering how much does that change it? When they win, they have a dance club in their home clubhouse and they all go nuts and they all have their own certain dances. That’s going to be a big vital point that’s missing there. But I think with the great leadership they have over there, they’ll get through this together. There’s no way this doesn’t bring this team even closer than they’ve already become with everything they’ve already accomplished and tried to accomplish this year. But it’s definitely a big void. His personality was bigger than life.”
Fernandez was born in Santa Clara, Cuba. He was jailed three times for trying – and failing – to escape his home country. His fourth defection attempt, which came in 2008 when he was 15, was successful.
“He was never bitter about anything he went through in his life,” Pavano said. “He was appreciative that he got to experience all these things. The day he pitched, he was out there to win; he wasn’t out there not to lose. He’s already been through things that were so much part of life. He made a comment, ‘Facing David Wright, what is he going to do? I’ve been shot at and been in jail.’ So those (types of personalities) are really infectious on a team. They play with nothing to lose, and he had that.”