This has been a rough 2016. Several iconic figures and friends have died. A couple of weeks ago at one my friend’s funeral, the question was asked, “What will people say about you when you pass?” That reiterated the point of, what is going to be the “dash” between my birth and my death. This reference made me think about Jose Fernandez.

Fernandez was a Cuban-born American pitcher for the Miami Marlins. His stepfather defected from Cuba in 2005, and settled in Tampa, Florida. Fernandez attempted to defect unsuccessfully three times, with each failed attempt followed by a prison term. Can you imagine being 14 years old and being in prison for trying to leave the country? He, along with his mother and sister, defected in 2007 to Mexico. On that successful attempt, his mother fell overboard when the boat hit turbulent waters, and he had to dive in to save her life. The Marlins drafted him in the first round of the 2011 MLB with the 14th overall selection. He made his MLB debut on April 7, 2013. He was named to the 2013 MLB All-Star Game, won the National League Rookie of the Year Award, and finished third in the Cy Young Award balloting. Fernandez missed the majority of the 2014 season because of “Tommy John” surgery. This season, he was back to pitching great considering he was named to MLB All-Star Game again. The Marlins were even in the playoff race for a while. He was becoming “the man” in Miami at only 24 years old. Miami has a heavy Cuban and Latino population which adds to him being a hometown favorite. He was a happy kid. He loved playing baseball and his teammates. On September 20th he announced his first child would be born by his girlfriend. He was sitting on top of the world, until September 25th.

On that day, Fernandez, and two of his friends were killed when his 32-foot SeaVee boat named Kaught Looking crashed and was found flipped over. The toxicology report shows that Emilio Jesus Macias, 27, and Eduardo Rivero, 25, had a blood alcohol level of .04 and .06 respectively. Neither of which is over the legal limit of .08 in the state of Florida. Fernandez’s level was twice the legal limit at .147. He also had cocaine in his system, along with Rivero. It still has not been determined who was driving the boat. Authorities have interviewed a “highly reliable” witness who said he was on the phone with Fernandez just before the accident and heard him give another person direction about where to steer the boat.

In this day and age we have seen so many young athletes misuse their fame and fortune, i.e. Johnny Manziel. They think they are invincible or above the law. A lot comes at them too fast too soon and it seems that many of them are not grounded enough to handle it. Hopefully this will be a lesson to the other youth, but it won’t. Sad to say, the Manziel’s and the Fernandez’s should have learned from the Mike Vick’s and the Doc Gooden’s. Social media now grants all of us the access to athlete’s private lives at all times. Now everyone has a smart phone that can capture any and everything. This should really stop and make these young athletes think. Making dumb decisions is what 24 year olds do. It’s just sad that Fernandez and these young men paid the price with their lives.

The city of Miami and the Marlins held a public memorial and funeral procession for Fernandez on September 28. His ashes were scattered in the sea on October 2. The Commissioner Bruno Barreiro sponsored the legislation to have a section of Northwest 17th Avenue between U.S. Highway 1 and the Miami River named after him. Barreiro said, “His legacy as a player, as a human being, prior to this tragic accident cannot be overshadowed by the unfortunate circumstance that he paid dearly with.” Not everyone felt that such an honor was necessary, at least not right now. Commission Chair Jean Monestime said, “I probably would have been more comfortable providing my advice to the prime sponsor to have it deferred or withdrawn. But that wasn’t the case.” The Marlins didn’t even play a game the next day after the boating accident against the Atlanta Braves. This shows how much he was revered by his teammates. He was the future of the franchise. His jersey number 16 was retired, never to be worn by another Marlin ever. He had a moment that I’m sure he wishes he could take back. Let’s remember that award winning smile and passion that he played with. At the same time, cognoscente of making sure we make good decisions.  

Jose Fernandez. July 31, 1992 – September 25, 2016. What will you say about his dash? What will your own dash consist of?