I’m really trying to focus on health, fitness, wellness, etc on this blog, but I guess once in a while, I’ll talk about other things close to my heart. One of these things is baseball.
To preface, 2016 has been a particularly difficult year in news and pop culture. We’ve witnessed so many senseless tragedies—the Orlando massacre particularly comes to mind and breaks my heart. We’ve lost so many incredible legends like David Bowie, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Alan Rickman, and Gene Wilder. Though it was very sad to lose them, I do believe they lived full lives and were able to share everything they had with the world and more. Frankly, the mass tragedies and losing stars closer to my age like Anton Yelchin and Christina Grimmie hit me a lot harder. With how those lives were full of promise only to be cut short so suddenly, it’s difficult not be emotional, to mourn those lives lost and the people who loved them.
However, this past Sunday, upon hearing that Jose Fernandez of the Miami Marlins had suddenly passed, I believe I felt actual grief, something that I had not felt since my maternal grandfather died in 2009. I woke up and saw that my brother had texted me with the news, and somehow it felt like one of our own family members had gone. A shock had set in, and I immediately started sobbing. I couldn’t even look up the cause of death (He was in a boating accident)—I just had to believe it, but I didn’t want to.
Though the San Francisco Giants are my team, I identify as a baseball fan first and foremost. Though the Giants and the Marlins were in different divisions and only faced each other a few times a year, I knew I liked Jose as both a baseball player and a person. He was a competitor and a talent beyond his 24 years. However, he was also youthful, fun, and easy-going. The one word that kept coming up over and over again as the baseball community remembered his life was joy. People kept bringing up specific moments when Jose’s joy was so evident and in turn made them smile.
Like when he snagged a liner hit by Troy Tulowitzki and Tulo couldn’t believe it.
And when he hit his first home run and admired it, causing the benches to clear. Even when the other team tried to stop him, he still couldn’t stop smiling.
And when he was captured doing this in the dugout.
Outside of baseball, Jose was a charitable human being and a true family man. His backstory is a riveting example of sacrifice for the American dream. He unsuccessfully defected from his native Cuba three times before succeeding a fourth time in 2008. On that final attempt, he dove into the sea and swam to save his mother after she fell overboard from her boat.
He loved his grandma dearly. When he was finally reunited with her after six years of not seeing her, he said “This is bigger than the big leagues, bigger than winning…anything.”
Just about a week ago, he announced that his girlfriend was pregnant and that he was excited about starting his journey to fatherhood.
I mourn for a mother without her son, a grandma without her grandson, a woman without her partner, and a child without their father.
Of course, I mourn for a Miami squad who not only lost a teammate, but a brother. I saw images of unfathomable sorrow, strength, and love from the Marlins on the day he passed and the day afterwards. I’ll never forget the gatherings they had on the mound before and after the first game since Jose’s passing, as well as Dee Gordon’s emotional lead-off home run that evening.
These are all things that have already been said by everyone else. I won’t be able to include them now due to time, but you can easily look up some of his baseball-related accomplishments through a quick search. I didn’t know Jose Fernandez personally, but through baseball and my fellow baseball fans, I felt a very warm adoration for him. All the things I echoed about him here are the ways I want to remember him. I also wanted to introduce him to those less familiar with baseball, and paint a portrait that shows why we love and miss him.
Jose’s sudden and tragic passing comes as the 2016 regular baseball season comes to an end. Some teams have already clinched playoff berths, others have been long eliminated, and a few are in limbo with their postseason hopes. My Giants are one of these few teams in limbo. These last couple of months have not been easy as a Giants fan, and in these past couple of weeks, things have been intense. I admit I’ve said some pretty bad things about both my own team and other teams. But now I realize that it’s just so damn petty, and I’m sad that it had to take this terrible loss to finally change my perspective. What matters is just enjoying the ride. That’s what Jose did as an athlete and a person, and that’s what we all can learn from him. Whether or not you enjoy sports as a spectator or play sports, I believe we all need to do what brings us happiness and not worry about the outcome, and just have fun and enjoy every minute of it.
To conclude, I just want to say that if you’re feeling like me and wondering why you’re so torn up about grieving someone you never knew personally, it’s okay. Acknowledge your feelings and don’t fight them. Cry if you want to. Write about it. Talk to someone about it. But also don’t forget to take care of yourself, and to live your own life to the fullest. These last several days have been rough when I think about what has transpired, and I already feel that the postseason and the 2017 regular season will be rough knowing Jose is gone. But as with all death, time heals. For now, I let my heart break.
Rest in paradise, Jose. ❤
(FEATURED PHOTO CREDIT: Joe Skipper / Getty Images)