September 25th, 2016

I’m not at all sure how to put into context what happened today; everything still feels so raw and I had a hard time decide whether or not to actually write this article. But, today was just such a monumental day that I needed to get my feelings out on paper.

Regardless of the fact that I have never met him, and have absolutely no connection to him at all, I woke up to news that no one should ever have to wake up to.

Jose Fernandez has passed away at the age of 24.

It’s still hard to believe that the sentence I just put down is true. It’s not my place to grieve over Fernandez, I give all of my most sincere condolences to his family, friends, teammates, and anyone else who he impacted over his life. But it’s still hard to sit here and try and wrap my thought around him being gone.

Whenever anyone passes away, all of their good qualities shine through because we, as humans, choose to illuminate the good that we do in retrospection. And, that’s exactly what we are doing with Fernandez.

His light literally could not have shown any brighter. Never have I ever seen a Jose Fernandez frown. That infectious smile is absolutely everywhere today, as it well should be. Countless stories have been recounted of his kindness, from rescuing his mother from drowning while defecting from Cuba to spending joyous time with Casey McGehee’s cerebral palsy-stricken child, Fernandez had as big a heart off the field as he did on the field.

On the field? Jose Fernandez was as good as anyone I have ever seen.

Ever since his rookie season in 2013, that wipeout slider and 100 mph heat made Fernandez one of my favorite pitchers to watch. In the live ball era, no one has had a lower FIP than Fernandez’s 2.32 with at least 700 IP.

Even further, Fernandez will be remembered as a part of the Cuban renaissance in baseball. When he debuted, Cubans were few and far between in Major League baseball. Now, between him, Yasiel Puig, Aroldis Chapman, Yoenis Cespedes, Jose Abreu, Aledmys Diaz – and tons others – Cubans are all over the game of baseball, and the United States government has begun negotiating with the former Soviet friend in an effort to mend their relationship.

Now, did Fernandez do this all by himself? No, but he was part of a mini-revolution that may change two countries entirely. And he did all by just being himself.

Jose Fernandez was a star, and he shone as bright as any star has ever shown. It’s almost impossible to hate him because his smile and his joy are just so infectious and genuine, and even on days when he was starting, he would still make time to go sign autographs and talk to reporters.

Baseball lost possibly it’s brightest star today, and I still struggle to find the right words to honor him. But, the game will honor Jose Fernandez by continuing on, and every one of us can honor Fernandez by simply doing his favorite thing.

Smiling.

……….

As heartbreaking as the news was this morning, baseball continued on, but everything just seemed overshadowed by something.

The Mets defeated the Phillies by a massive margin of 17-0 to increase their lead in the Wild Card standings to a full game over the San Francisco Giants and a game and a half over the St. Louis Cardinals. In their dugout hung a Mets replica jersey with Fernandez’s name and his number 16 on the back.

The Los Angeles Dodgers clinched their fourth straight division title with a walk-off home run by Charlie Culberson. Amid all of the joyous celebration was a tearful Yasiel Puig, a fellow Cuban and close friend of Fernandez’s who had also hung a Fernandez replica jersey in the Dodgers dugout.

Combined with all of this was the realization that today was the final home game that the Vin Scully would ever call. A great way for Scully to go out, no doubt, but still a sad day for anyone that has ever listened to Scully and just been amazed by his simplistic greatness.

The greatest broadcaster that there will ever be calls his final game this weekend in San Francisco,  so there are still 3 more opportunities to listen to Scully’s voice before he rides off into the sunset.

But, amid all of the joyous Dodger celebration were Puig’s tears at the loss of Fernandez, and the bittersweet reminder that this was Scully’s final home game.

Every team held a moment of silence before their games in honor of Fernandez. Many players wrote JF 16 on their caps to pay tribute, and close personal friends such as Aledmys Diaz and Jose Iglesias had to be scratched from their respective lineups to collect themselves in such a heartbreaking moment.

There just seemed to be a gray cloud over all of baseball today. In the midst of a heated and chaotic stretch run that has seemingly divided the league, the games didn’t seem to matter today.

The jarring news of Fernandez’s passing serves as a tragic reminder that nothing is guaranteed. Fernandez was supposed to be a long term fixture in the Marlins rotation, a Cy Young contender for years to come, an infectious presence that would lead baseball’s Cuban revolution and make baseball fun again.

I keep finding myself lamenting the fact that I didn’t watch him pitch enough. I didn’t fully appreciate his greatness because I just assumed that he would be there for years and years and years.

Same thing with Vin Scully. I remember when I first heard him and thought he was dry and boring. With age, I learned just how unique and brilliant and special Scully is and, this season, I find myself wishing I could hear him call every game. I’m not even a Dodger fan, but it just will never be right to not hear his voice while watching a Dodger game.

During what was supposed to be one of the most exciting days of the season, baseball endured a heartbreaking tragedy and saw its greatest broadcast of all time call his final home game.

Appreciate what we do have in this great game, because you never know when it might get taken away.

I love you all.

Thanks for reading.

-Ryan

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September 25th, 2016

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