I woke up this morning after a 12 hour hibernation session, I guess I was fairly sleep deprived, to do my normal, pre-card show routine (more on that tomorrow). In my haze, while wandering to the bathroom to take a long, hot shower, I grabbed my phone to check on the time and weather. Furthermore, I pulled up MLB Trade Rumors, out of habit, to check the latest news from the MLB. I was not expecting the headline that sat on top of the page, in bold text.
Surely, I was reading that wrong... or this was some sort of tasteless hoax or careless mistake...
If you haven't heard by now, one of the best young talents in the league and an all-around great guy with immense enthusiasm for the game and for life in general was taken away from this world far too soon. Jose Fernandez died early this morning from injuries sustained in a boating crash in Florida - he was only 24 years old.
Youth cut down in it's prime is always a terrible tragedy and seeing this headline was a true shock to my system; it woke me up from my groggy haze instantaneously.
Fernandez had gone through so much in his young life and seen more strife than any should ever have to deal with. Raised in less-than-ideal economic conditions, the Cuban-born pitcher spent time in prison during his early teen years in his native land for attempting to defect from the country to pursue his dream and a better life in the US. Upon attempting again with his family, at the age of 15, he very nearly lost his mother in the process. While speeding across the ocean, under cover of darkness, his mom was accidentally jettisoned into the cold, still water - a truly dire situation. Without second thought, Jose immediately jumped into the blackness after her and saved her life.
One can see why Jose and his family are so close.
The fact that Jose was able to endure all of that hardship and still maintain his youthful lust for life is truly a testament to his character and mental fortitude. Naturally, that toughness allowed him to be drafted by the Marlins in the first round of the 2011 draft and burst onto the Major League scene as an All-Star and Rookie of the Year.
Despite some injury issues that ultimately resulted in Tommy John surgery mid-2014, Fernandez had come back to pitch at an ace-caliber level. Jose was truly on his way to greatness and was every bit part of the future of this game as Mike Trout, Kris Bryant and company...
... and then today happened.
In my time as a die-hard baseball fan, America's pastime has gone through a fair amount of grief. From the sudden death of Darryl Kile on a day he was scheduled to pitch against the Cubs, to the airplane crash that took Corey Lidle, to the loss of Nick Adenhart to the reckless decisions of a drunk driver - it never gets any easier. We may not know these men on a personal level, but we sports fans feel a certain attachment to the great personalities who play the games that we love.
Not to mention, it's hard not to form those bonds when the player is as happy-go-lucky as Jose Fernandez.
As the writer behind a baseball-centric blog, I felt as though I had to post some sort of tribute to Mr. Fernandez, as painful as it was to compose this post. Originally, I intended it to be mostly picture-centric, but the words kept coming. Treasure the moments you have on this earth and make sure to tell those close to you how much you love and appreciate them - that time is never long enough.