September 26, 2016
On May 9, 2014 Cheryl and I drove down to San Diego’s Petco Park to see the Padres take on the Florida Marlins. We went specifically to see Jose Fernandez pitch. My thought was all about the possibility of seeing something amazing.
Going into that game, Jose had a 1.74 ERA and the Padres’ offense wasn’t setting the world on fire. I thought… maybe, just maybe we’ll see Jose throw a no-hitter. Seriously, that was one of the reasons why we made the trip. It was a hunch and an excuse to see one of the brightest young stars in the game.
I can count on one hand the number of times I made a trip to a ball-park to specifically see a certain player. As season ticket holders, I know if I’m patient I will eventually see everyone there is to see in the game. It says a lot that I would make a special trip to see one guy away from Angels stadium.
Jose was that special.
I knew he was a special talent, but even beyond that - I loved the way he played the game. I love watching players who not only have swagger, but also have a genuine love for the game and play the game with unbridled joy. Jose was everything good about baseball and we wanted to see him pitch, knowing he was capable of doing something extraordinary any time he stepped on the field.
Unfortunately, Jose didn’t come close to perfection. In fact, he had one of his worst games of the year. We would learn afterwards that he was sick and battling a high fever along with vomiting. We would also learn that game would be his last of the year as he would need Tommy John surgery.
Baseball is rarely predictable. It often shows you the opposite of what you expect. It has a way of making the brightest stars look mortal and even has the ability to elevate role players into the stratosphere when they do something spectacular.
It was disappointing to see Jose not be all that he was capable of being that day, but we walked away thinking - maybe next time…
Fast forward to Sunday – September 25, 2016 and the news of Jose’s tragic death. The moment I heard the news, my heart sunk. I immediately put my hand over my heart. It was just my natural reaction to horrific news. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. A rush of thoughts came to my mind – the May 9, 2014 game we went to, his infectious smile and zest for the game and thoughts of Nick Adenhart who was also lost to us tragically at a young age.
Jose was the kind of player you want on your team. Not just because of the talent alone, but because some guys just make you love the game more and he was that kind of guy. Jose was easy to cheer for and I will miss having the chance to do that ever again.
Mourning the loss of a public figure is different for everyone. These kinds of tragedies are different from losing someone close to you, but they can be profound never-the-less. They can certainly make us sad and reflective and they definitely bring life’s priorities into focus.
I can’t stop thinking about Jose Fernandez. I can’t stop thinking about the joy he brought to those who watched him pitch. I can’t stop thinking about how special he was. That word “special” will always be the word I associate with Jose Fernandez.
Back in 2014, we were reminded that even the great ones are human. More than two years later – we are reminded that no one is invincible and how brief life can really be.
I am saddened by his death, but grateful that we had the privilege of seeing his talent and personality shine so brightly for the short time he was here.