With the election looming (sigh), the debate between Trump and Clinton has been making the headlines for AGES now, it seems. And the hype for the debate on Monday night seems to have far outweighed what actually happened during the debate. Unless you are counting the inaccuracies on both sides, that is. That said, though, it seems many folks, Republicans included, think Trump did a lousy job. Shocking, I know.
But I don’t want to give more time to either Clinton or Trump in this post. No, I want to share something else that happened Monday night. It was powerful, poignant, heartbreaking, and moving. That was what happened in the Mets. v. Marlins game.
Why? Because early Sunday morning, the Marlins lost their pitcher who was supposed to have started Monday’s game. Jose Fernandez died in a boating accident in the Miami harbor. He was just 24 years old.
That is just the top of the iceberg of who Hernandez was, and his incredible story. Someone who knows about losing someone way too soon, Mary Katherine Ham (who lost her husband in a freak accident), has more on Fernandez and his amazing rise to MLB stardom. From the Federalist:
Before he was 15, Fernandez and his mother had made three failed attempts to defect from his communist island nation. The man all of Miami mourns today had once floated in the warm ocean waters of its coast gazing at the city’s skyline as the lights of the Coast Guard approached his small boat of defectors. He served several months in a Cuban prison at 14 after being apprehended and sent back.
On their final try, Fernandez and his mother went to a southern beach to await a boat to Cancun, taking a chance on rougher seas and a longer route to America, but fewer patrols. Under the sweeping beam of a nearby lighthouse, they huddled in a cave until a speedboat arrived and took them to another boat in international waters.
After landing in Mexico, Fernandez and his mother took two buses north to the border, where they crossed into Texas. Because of American policy on Cuban defectors, they were welcomed by immigration authorities as soon as they arrived. It was 2008.
Yes, Fernandez and his mother defected from Cuba and made their way here, with the third time being the charm (though even that was fraught with tremendous danger). He had a meteoric rise to the Big Show, but becoming a US citizen, as he did in 2015, was a HUGE moment for him:
‘This is one of my important accomplishments,’ Fernandez said. ‘I’m an American citizen now — I’m one of them. I consider myself now to be free.’ …
‘I thank this amazing country for giving me the opportunity to go to school here and learn the language and pitch in the major leagues. It’s an honor to be a part of this country, and I respect it so much.’
This young man had his whole life ahead of him, and was an expectant father to boot:
Five days before he died, Fernandez posted ablack and white photo of his girlfriend on the beach, cradling an obvious baby bump. The caption read, “I’m so glad you came into my life. I’m ready for where this journey is gonna take us together. #familyfirst”
Fernandez understood, more than most, what it meant to have his whole family here, in one place. One can only imagine the joy he would have taken in growing that family in the country he loved.
I might interject here, that was another parallel between Mary Katherine Ham’s life and this young superstar’s girlfriend. Ham, too, was pregnant when her husband, Jake Brewer, was killed. I am sure she can imagine better than many the impact the sudden loss of her baby’s father is having on Fernandez’s girlfriend. Bless her heart, and the baby’s, too…
But this comment by Fernandez speaks volumes about the man he was, and the proud American he became:
Before he died, he left his teammates with a thought about freedom, something he often tossed around in the locker room. Usually a sunny jokester, this was more of an admonition than a celebration: “You were born into freedom. You don’t understand freedom, really.” […] (Click here to read the rest.)
In today’s world of overpaid, spoiled athletes, the attitude of Fernandez regarding freedom is a breath of fresh air. When there are athletes like Colin Kapernick (and more) protesting the national anthem and flag, a protest that has filtered down to colleges and high schools, the words of a Cuban refugee who lived under Communism, and who literally risked life and limb to get here, are the more poignant and powerful. These young men haven’t the foggiest how very, very lucky they are to have been born Americans. No clue. And that reality is telling indeed.
As to Monday night, well, the game between the Mets and the Marlins had too many powerful, moving, poignant moments to mention here. The tribute by the Marlins of Fernandez alone was moving, as were the comments by fans of the young pitcher.
But it was the actions of one of the players, Dee Gordon, as well as his comments after the game, that really hit, well, home (and apologies – this was the best version available as of this writing):
Yes, Gordon hit his first homerun of the season Monday night. He stood at the plate, first on the right side with a batting helmet with Fernandez’s number (16) on it, let a pitch go by, then switched to his normal side. He blasted that ball out of the park.
Gordon wasn’t the only one who had a big night, leading to a win of the Marlins’ over the Mets. Gordon claimed there was some divine intervention going on that night to help them as they mourned the loss and celebrated the life of Jose Fernandez.
Fernandez could teach many of us a thing or two about Freedom, including the two people who were widely featured on Monday night. His untimely passing is tragically sad indeed, for his family, for his yet-to-be-born baby, his team, Miami, and all across Baseball Land.
But if anything good can come of it, let his words on Freedom ring long and loud. That is my hope…
This is an Open Thread.