If you were to scroll back through Jose Fernandez's Twitter account, you'd see posts about charity support, donations, childhood cancer fights and ice bucket challenges.
If you were to look up highlights of his career, you'd find a four-pitch pitcher (whose ERA never reached 3.00) with an absolutely filthy curveball, unbridled joy for the game, and, well, this:
And, if you checked out his Instagram profile, you'd see lots of people, lots of smiles, and a post from a week ago that looks something like this:
This is the tragedy of Jose Fernandez — a young, extremely talented, joyful baseball player whose life ended abruptly, almost right as it started. But this is the hope of Jose Fernandez — a young, extremely talented, joyful baseball player whose life transcended the game.
Although nobody is certain about the details surrounding the death of Fernandez and his friends, what we do know is this: a boat owned, though not driven, by Fernandez crashed into a jetty near Miami Beach sometime late on Sept. 25. All three of the men on the boat were killed, but reports indicate that neither alcohol nor drugs were involved.
The baseball world was left stunned.
Even people outside the baseball world were left stunned. I know I was. I would never have guessed I'd write about baseball at any point in my life, but here I am. For some reason, looking at his story, seeing the reactions to it, and watching videos about what his life meant to people led me and many others to be deeply impacted by his story.
Fernandez's death is not the only tragedy here. The tragedy is that he will no longer be around to flash that smile on the mound, that he won't be around to be involved in charity and volunteer work and that he won't be around to care for his child. And the tragedy is that we would never have appreciated his life until he was gone, and perhaps if he hadn't died tragically, we would never have recognized his impact.
His story doesn't end in tragedy, however, because his story doesn't end with his death. Anyone who took the time to look at his life knows that he knew life was about more than just baseball. He fled Cuba on a speedboat years ago and came to America in search of a better life (he recently became a U.S. citizen). As previously mentioned, Fernandez had been heavily involved with many charitable organizations and projects focused on the less fortunate. Although he obviously loved the game, he loved his family more. He was often seen with a smile on his face, spreading joy in even the most common of ways.
Let this be a lesson to the rest of us — life is much, much bigger than ourselves and our occupations.
The coolest part about the reaction to his death is that the hope is absolutely tangible. On the first game back for the Marlins after the death of Fernandez, Dee Gordon stepped up to the plate for the team's first at bat of the game. What happened next? What happened next is something straight out of Hollywood, fairytales, or storybooks. Just watch:
Try as I might, I could not hold back tears watching that for the first time. What makes it even more special is that Dee Gordon is not a home run hitter; that was his first of the season. Look at the emotion overwhelming Gordon as he rounds third, as he heads back to the dugout and as he makes his way out of the sight of the camera. You'll also see that Gordon isn't the only one in tears — the whole team is. This is the reaction of people who know the importance of the person they've lost. A bunch of grown men are crying over the lost life of their teammate, and, if that isn't beautiful, I don't know what is.
The Marlins went on to win that game. As I said before, the hope is tangible.
Watch Gordon's post-game interview:
I don't feel like I need to add anything. I have no brilliant point to make, no word of advice, no witty wisdom, only an appreciation for the life of this ball player and the legacy that he left behind.
Actually, I guess I have one more thing: