Column: Honoring number 16 forever

E9: What you wouldn’t believe about sports.

Sam L. Jaime

Sam L. Jaime

There are roughly eight billion of us inhabiting this rock, hurling through infinite space. Every day, we grow, laugh, love, and develop throughout our journey along this adventure known as life. It’s so easy for us to get caught up in ultimately meaningless stress and conflict, we forget that our moment is fleeting, our days numbered. In our individual lives there are those that emerge from obscurity and hold a great influence on our existence, and impact the way in which we perceive the world. It’s impossible to exclude José Fernández from that role.

Fernández’s career embodied everything a manager could ever ask or receive from a player. The moment he arrived on the Miami Marlins’ roster, he was a star. His place on the mound could have been overshadowed by his clubhouse presence if not for his incredibly athletic ability.

Yet Fernández’s personality transcended the game, with his pearly-white smile, and seemingly perpetual joy. He was a cheerleader, providing boisterous support for his teammates, shared a strong connection to the Marlins’ trainers and staff and the southern Florida community that had adopted him. It’s amazing that an individual could have such a lust for life, considering his entrance into our country had come after three previously failed attempts via boat from his native Cuba. Consider also, that on his fourth and final attempt, he nearly lost his mother and had left behind his beloved grandmother in the process. That amount of hardship would be enough to break most of us, but José fought on.

Perhaps it was his appreciation for the life he began in America or his personality, but Fernández never publicly showed anything other than happiness. The most poignant moment I ever saw in regard to Fernández was his reunion with his grandma in 2013, as she witnessed the magic we had all been spoiled with, for the first time in six years.

His dynamism, his talent, his smile, his life, tragically cut short, serves as a reminder to find the love and joy in our own lives. The heart-wrenching tributes that have poured in could never capture the meaning of what he, perhaps unknowingly, embodied. He was a beacon of fortitude and a reminder that no matter what the score is, there is always something left to cheer for. The smile never seemed to leave his face, the laughter rarely left his voice.

The aftermath, that internal conflict of appreciation and grief is with us all at some point in our lives, and just like José never left his team during his own hours of darkness, we refuse to abandon his family, his teammates, his fans, and the Marlins organization during theirs.

It is certain that no other Marlin will ever wear number 16, despite Fernández only pitching in a total of 76 games.

This can only be a testament to not only his ability on the field, but his impact off it. While there is a hole in the hearts of baseball fans throughout the world, we can find some sort of solace in knowing he will live on, within his unborn child, and through the stories we will tell about how he touched our lives.