While the baseball world continues to reel after José Fernández’s tragic death, today has been about remembering his life and the joy he brought to so many both through his pitching and through his infectious happiness. The Miami Marlins filled Marlins Park with Jose’s No. 16, starting with the place from which Fernández was nearly unhittable at home: the mound.
His number later went up in other areas or the stadium and then onto the backs of all his teammates’ jerseys. Every member of the Marlins wore “Fernández 16” for the game against the New York Mets. After the game, the number will be seen around the park, but not on another player. The team will retire the number, according to owner Jeffrey Loria.
Major League Baseball also honored him with a video on Twitter that highlighted some of the peaks of his career as well as the thrilling moments of what turned out to be his final game.
ESPN’s Dan Le Batard, who basically serves as the voice of Miami sports, wrote about the feeling of loss felt by the Cuban community. Like many of us from Miami, the news hit Le Batard and his family especially hard.
The Tampa Bay Rays also paid tribute to Fernández, who graduated from local Alonso High School in 2011.
The Rays initially intended to honor Ortiz in his last game at Tropicana Field, but he asked the team to cancel the celebration out of respect for Fernández. The two were friends, and Ortiz struggled to hold it together during the Rays tribute.
Before the game, spouses of Marlins players paid their respects.
But nothing could prepare us for the emotional tributes that came once the game started. The players took the field with tears in their eyes for a moment of silence followed by a somber rendition of “Take Me Out To The Ball Game.” The two teams then embraced before the Marlins paid one more tribute to Fernández by rubbing their hands on the dirt of the pitching mound, a habit the pitcher developed because growing up in Cuba he did not have a rosin bag to keep his hands dry.
Left handed hitter Dee Gordon, led off the bottom of the first wearing Fernández’s batting helmet and standing on the wrong side of the plate. He took the first pitch, before switching to his regular helmet and side of the plate. Then, he hit only his ninth career home run.
Although Fernández will never take the mound for the Marlins again, the team made sure to let everyone know that #Joséday lives on.