The Miami Marlins took the field Monday night to pay tribute to Jose Fernandez in their first game since the ace pitcher was killed in a boating accident.
Every player wore Fernandez’s number 16 and gathered at the pitcher’s mound to pay their respects to the 24-year-old at Marlins Park prior to the game against the New York Mets.
Fernandez had been scheduled to start the game..
Mets announcers struggled to keep their composure. Gary Cohen emotionally recalled how the national anthem held the idea of the American dream for the Cuban-born player.
Cohen, fighting back tears, said: “I was especially struck by the poignancy of the national anthem. For a young man who risked everything to be part of this country. It rang especially true today."
Dee Gordon was first up to bat for the Marlins. Normally a left-handed batter, he set up on the right side of the plate while wearing the batting helmet of Fernandez, a right-handed batter.
After the first pitch, he switched to his normal position, and smacked the third pitch of the game over the right field wall for his first home run of the season.
Gordon rounded the bases in tears.
“I don't care who you are, who you root for or how badly you want the Mets to be in the postseason. That was phenomenal,” Cohen said following the blast.
The Marlins went on to defeat the Mets 7-3.
After the game, the team once again gathered at the mound, and tossed their caps to the ground in one last tribute to their fallen pitcher.
Following the game, the team tweeted: “We played for you. We won for you. We will forever honor you.”
They also called the game “Your day” and “Jose Day” in honor of the pitcher.
Gordon also thanked the Mets for their class during the game, as they hung Fernandez’s jersey in their dugout.
The players paraded his jersey around the field to honor his legacy.
Following the game, manager Don Mattingly told reporters: “It was a rough day. It wasn’t scripted. There is nothing that tells you how to handle it and I feel like they just stuck together and came out and played.”
He fought back tears as he said: “I think they really wanted to honor Jose and the way he played – with that joy and that confidence and that energy. I think that was the focus of these guys of honoring him by the way we played.”