By John Jackson, Staff Writer
News broke out early morning on Sept. 25 that put the whole baseball world in a state of shock. Major League Baseball pitcher Jose Fernandez of the Miami Marlins died in a boat crash. He was only 24 years old.
Baseball fans across the country woke up that Sunday checking their phones like any ordinary day. This day, however, was different as they were greeted with texts and app alerts with the terrible news of Fernandez’s passing.
Manhattan College baseball catcher Fabian Pena was one of those fans who heard the news that morning.
“I was in total shock,” said Pena. “I couldn’t believe what was going on. I even felt like crying. I didn’t know him personally, but he felt close to us.”
Pena, like Fernandez, moved to the United States from Cuba and pursed baseball. Pena is also from Miami, where Fernandez played his home games.
“Part of my family went to his viewing,” said Pena. “People that didn’t know him were gathered together to honor him and pay respect to his family and him.”
Manhattan College baseball infielder and catcher Ryan Gronlier, who is also Cuban, felt the news hit close to home.
“Definitely saddened,” said Gronlier in response to hearing the news about Fernandez. “I think it goes for myself and pretty much everybody in Miami especially the way that Jose’s story ties to a lot of us. From Miami and from a Cuban background like us. It was a hard time for all of us.”
Gronlier and his dad have been to a lot of Marlins games over the years. He had the chance to see Fernandez pitch many times after he made his debut in 2013.
“Me and my dad are definitely Marlins fans,” said Gronlier. “We had season tickets the first year they opened the stadium and we usually go to all the games. And we saw Jose pitch many, many, many times.”
The Marlins cancelled their game against the Atlanta Braves on Sept. 25. Their next game, on Monday against the New York Mets was perhaps one of most emotional games in baseball history.
On the third pitch of the game, Dee Gordon, a close friend and teammate of Fernandez, hit a leadoff home run. His first home run all season. It was only his ninth career home run in over 500 games across six seasons.
“It’s a lot more than a game,” said Gronlier. “It was unbelievable what happened to Dee Gordon. He comes up, goes right-handed with Jose’s helmet, and then comes up next pitch lefty and hits a home run. It’s unreal. You can’t write that in a book.”
Manhattan’s new assistant coach Danny Benedetti also felt the death of Fernandez was a tough event for baseball.
“It’s tough [with] how young he is,” said Benedetti. “He’s one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball so it’s a big hit to the baseball world.”
Benedetti also pointed to St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Aledmys Diaz, a childhood friend of Fernandez, who hit a grand slam in his first game back from Fernandez’s services.
“Even his friend Diaz from the Cardinals hit a home run in his first at-bat back from the funeral service that they had in Miami so it’s really tough,” Benedetti said. “It’s a tough time for the baseball world. It’s tragic that you have a young talent like that pass away too early.”