Jose Fernandez, the ace right-hander for the Miami Marlins who escaped Cuba to become one of baseball’s brightest stars, was killed in a boating accident early Sunday morning. Fernandez was 24.
Spokesman Lorenzo Veloz of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said in a news conference Sunday that Fernandez, 24, was one of three men killed in the accident.
The Coast Guard arrived to the scene at around 3 a.m. to find a 32-foot boat upside down on a jetty off Miami Beach. Two of the victims were found dead under the vessel. One was found dead in the water. None of the deceased was wearing a life vest.
Speed is suspected to be a factor in the accident because of the impact with the jetty, Veloz said. There was no evidence of alcohol or illegal drug use.
The Marlins announced that Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Braves has been canceled. Major League Baseball announced that there would be a leaguewide moment of silence before each of Sunday’s games.
“Sadly, the brightest lights are often the ones that extinguish the fastest,” Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria said in a statement. “Jose left us far too soon, but his memory will endure in all of us. At this difficult time, our prayers are with his mother, grandmother, family and friends.”
Marlins president David Samson said in a news conference that Monday’s game against the New York Mets will be played as scheduled. He said Fernandez will be a member of the Marlins “all time.”
“The way he played this game, the way he was on the field, that’s a way how these guys can honor him,” Samson said.
Manager Don Mattingly and some Marlins players broke down during Sunday’s news conference. Mattingly said Fernandez played with the “joy” of a “little boy.”
Following the news conference, buses took Marlins players and executives to Fernandez’s mother’s home so they could offer her support and condolences.
The Tampa Bay Rays announced they were canceling a scheduled pregame ceremony to recognize retiring Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, per his wishes, after Sunday’s tragedy. Ortiz was seen in tears during the moment of silence before Sunday’s game in Tampa, Florida.
“I don’t have the words to describe the pain I feel,” Ortiz said.
Fernandez had announced on Instagram last week that his girlfriend is pregnant. The Marlins announced during Sunday’s news conference that the couple was expecting a baby girl.
“All of Baseball is shocked and saddened by the sudden passing of Miami Marlins pitcher José Fernández,” Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. “He was one of our game’s great young stars who made a dramatic impact on and off the field since his debut in 2013. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, the Miami Marlins organization and all of the people he touched in his life.”
MLBPA executive director Tony Clark also released a statement Sunday morning: “We are devastated by the news that Jose Fernandez has tragically passed. Jose was a remarkable young man and a tremendously gifted athlete, who at just 24, established himself as one of the game’s biggest and brightest stars. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Jose’s family, friends, teammates, Miami Marlins organization and legions of fans in the United States and Latin America.”
Fernandez’s next start had been pushed back from Sunday to Monday to make room for Adam Conley‘s return from the disabled list.
Fernandez emigrated to the United States from Cuba in 2008 after three failed defection attempts, settling in Tampa, Florida. He became a United States citizen last year. He was a 2011 first-round pick, taken 14th overall by the Marlins, out of Tampa’s Alonso High School.
At Citi Field in New York, fellow Cuban Yoenis Cespedes and the Mets hung a team jersey with Fernandez’s name and No. 16 on the back in the dugout.
Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig, who is also Cuban, hung a Dodgers jersey with Fernandez’s name and No. 16 in Los Angeles’ dugout.
Fernandez was 16-8 with a 2.86 ERA this season, earning his second appearance in the All-Star Game. Fernandez, who was named the National League Rookie of the Year in 2013, was 38-17 with a 2.58 ERA in 76 career starts for the Marlins.
Martin Prado said Sunday that Fernandez told one of his Marlins teammates that his last start against the Washington Nationals, “was his best ever, and now he’s gone.” In that start, Fernandez pitched eight innings and struck out 12, allowing just three hits in a 1-0 Marlins victory.
Fernandez joins a long list of active baseball players to die in accidents.Cleveland Indians pitchers Tim Crews, 31 and Steve Olin, 27, were killed in a boating accident in Clermont, Florida, on March 22, 1993. Indians pitcher Bobby Ojeda was also on the boat and lost four pints of blood, but survived.