The death of 24-year-old baseball pitcher Jose Fernandez on Sept. 25, 2016, was a devastating blow to baseball fans everywhere. Fernandez was infamously known for his contributions to both his team (the Miami Marlins), and his community.
Originally born in Santa Clara, Cuba, this ace pitcher was forced to face insurmountable obstacles to come to the United States. After being imprisoned three times for attempting to leave the country, he was finally able to escape. On the voyage to the U.S, Fernandez risked his life to save his drowning mother who had fallen overboard.
Despite living in the U.S. since he was fifteen years old, Fernandez only recently became an American citizen. Without citizenship or a college education, he was still able to make a successful life for himself by turning his passion into a career. Even through death, the story of how Fernandez rose from an immigrant to a 2-time all-star, major league pitcher continues to inspire other Cubans.
The legacy of Fernandez extends farther than his ethnicity. His charismatic personality was acknowledged and admired by those around him- friends, families, fans, and other players. He maintained a positive outlook on life, even when he was shown the worst of it. Fernandez was a generous man, and constantly went out of his way to help others.
The emotional toll of his death was felt across the country. Upon hearing about the loss of their teammate, the Miami Marlins canceled their game and wore caps with “JF16” written on them to commemorate Fernandez. Cubans and Americans were united through their grief as they mourned the passing of Fernandez.
Although Fernandez only spent 24 years in the world, the lessons he taught, the lives he touched, and the legacy he left behind have changed it for the better.