RIP Jose Fernandez

The shocking news came on while we were watching the Mets game last night. Cuban-American Jose Fernandez, who we feared as a competitor for the Miami Marlins, was dead at 24 in a boating accident.

Yoenis Cespedes, a fellow Cuban and Mets outfielder, hung up a Mets jersey with Fernandez’s name and number in tribute. Others followed suit all around the league.

Fernandez was voted the 2013 National League Rookie of the Year award. His was a promising life cut short, but it was a life of inspiration and as a fellow Cuban-American, it pained me to hear of his loss.

A Cuban-American sportscaster from Miami spoke about what Fernandez meant to the Cuban community, much like each and every successful Cuban resonates with Cubans all across the U.S.

We came here for freedom and to live the American dream. Fernandez embodied that spirit and attaining the dream.

At 14 he attempted to defect, but was caught and sent to prison. He tried again three other times and for each failure, he went to prison. During the successful attempt, Fernandez’s mother fell overboard and Fernandez had to rescue her, risking his own life to do so.

While Fernandez, his mother, and sister attained freedom here in the U.S. in 2007, his grandmother was left behind and it took six years before she could join her family in 2013. In 2015, Fernandez became a U.S. citizen.

Freedom was that important to Fernandez as it is to so many Cuban refugees who risked so much to get here. I understand. I lived it and have had the ability to attain the American Dream.

It’s why I stand and place my hand over my heart for the national anthem even when I’m at home and watching a game.

RIP Jose Fernandez. My sympathies to his family on their loss and to the families of the two other men killed in the boating accident.

José Fernández on April 12, 2016

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