Miami Marlins may have lost a star in physical presence, but the memories are still present.
I personally remember rolling over and seeing the ESPN update on my phone when I woke up. I immediately shook my girlfriend out of her sleep and told her what had happened.
The entire day seemed a little crazy. It was so hard to believe that someone with so much talent and joy had been taken so soon. That was just a fan’s perspective. Fernandez’s teammates were hit twice as hard. His family was devastated. The entire “Fish Family” was destroyed.
The First Game Back
The first game back was heartbreaking. No Jose? It just didn’t seem like real life. Was it all a dream? No. The pregame ceremonies, including a video tribute to the legacy of Fernandez, were truly tear jerking.
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So much emotion filled all of Marlins Park. As I sat from my couch, eyes watering up, Giancarlo Stanton gathered the team. Stanton stood over the group and gave the team a pep talk.
I will never forget what happened in the bottom of the first. Dee Gordon, not known for power, stepped into the box. Initially the left-handed batter came in and took a pitch from the right side imitating Fernandez’s stance.
Then, something that seemed too amazing to be real happened. Moving back to the left side, on a 2-0 count, Gordon launched a solo shot to right field. The only home run he hit in 2016. I don’t think anyone who saw that was able to hold back the tears, I surely wasn’t.
The Fish went on to win that game 7-3 in honor of Jose.
The Marlins opened their season at home against the Braves last night, the same team they were supposed to play the day of Fernandez’s death. Their first home series since the series with the Mets. On the mound for the Braves, Bartolo Colon, the same pitcher that was pitching for the Mets during that first game back.
Once again, another emotional moment for the Fish and their fans. Starting lineups were announced, attention was brought to the #16 patch on everyone’s jersey, and there was a moment of silence.
But, there was more going on behind the scenes. In the Marlins’ locker room all of the lockers were packed with personal items and equipment. Including #16’s locker. Still with clothes, jerseys, glove, and cleats.
The corner that was Jose’s will remain his for the 2017 season as the Marlins have turned his locker into a bit of a memorial to him. The climb to coping with the loss is an ongoing challenge for the team. In an article by Andre C. Fernandez of the Miami Herald, Mattingly said:
"“We all had to deal with it publicly last year and that was hard,” Mattingly said. “As we got to the winter we got a chance to process it better, but it doesn’t make it any easier."
It is still early in the season. We will still haves our ups and downs. But Through it all, Fernandez will be looking down on us, smiling as always.
The Fish will continue their series with the Braves tonight at 7:10 PM ET.