Less than 24 hours before Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez was tragically killed in a boating accident, one fan got an encounter with the player that she will cherish forever.
Wheelchair-bound Cristina Llanes, 20, met her favorite player at Marlins Park, thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation Saturday afternoon.
Llanes, who suffers from a debilitating disease that has limited her mobility, was transported to the stadium by Miami Fire Rescue to meet Fernandez.
The charismatic player told the young lady: “We’re going to try to win today. You know the other team is really good.”
She told CBS after the encounter: “It was a huge surprise. I didn’t expect that at all. It was a huge experience. It felt like a dream come true.”
Llanes, who used to go to games with her dad, said that she has been a fan of No. 16 since his rookie year in 2013.
The Cuban-born athlete gave the girl a signed bat and jersey and spent time with his biggest fan and her family.
“He just spoke to me like, it was great to meet me and talked about the experience, and how he became a Marlin,” she told CBS.
On Sunday morning, she heard the news of his untimely passing and told CBS: “I’ve been sad. He’s in a different place now. I could feel what they’re feeling, especially his teammates, his family, his friends, especially his mom and his grandmother.”
On Monday night, the Miami Marlins will play their first game since his death and every player and member of the coaching staff will be wearing his number, in honor of their star.
After Fernandez's death, the Marlins cancelled their game against the Braves in Atlanta. The team will take on the New York Mets in Miami Monday.
The team is also honoring their star with his number on the pitcher’s mound.
On Monday, Major League Baseball took to Twitter to pay tribute to the fan favorite in a montage video as well as his jersey hanging up inside Marlins Park.
José Fernández: A legacy of pure joy pic.twitter.com/M2gdCzB2p0— MLB (@MLB) September 26, 2016
Bigger than baseball. pic.twitter.com/qb5GN2w9sZ— MLB (@MLB) September 26, 2016
Fans have come out to create makeshift memorials outside the stadium to pay tribute to the star.
Absolutely heartbreaking Jose Fernandez memorial outside Marlins Park. pic.twitter.com/wIDAt58Dfu— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) September 26, 2016
Former Commissioner Bud Selig, all-time greats Hank Aaron, Robin Yount and Bob Uecker pay tribute to José Fernández. pic.twitter.com/L0DKeNqhzE— MLB (@MLB) September 26, 2016