The number “1992” bothered me profoundly. Learning of the death of a baseball star was incredibly sad. But the fact that this young man was born during the same year as I was terribly disturbing.
We went to bed on Saturday night at a time when baseball was exciting, full of promise and fun. Sunday morning muted that happiness, snuffing out the chase for the playoffs with the death of a beloved player, a cherished human being.
24-year-olds are not supposed to die. He was supposed to pitch today. He was supposed to be a perennial all-star, maybe even a Hall of Famer. He was supposed to share his talent with fans of the game for years to come. Instead, we are left with shock, with the devastating reality that his life has run it’s course.
I have never met Jose Fernandez. To me, he was a baseball player, a statistic, an asset to his ballclub. He was, in many ways a character in baseball’s drama. With the way we critique and judge our sports stars, it would be so easy to forget that he was a real person, a friend, a husband. Bringing his humanity to life only after his death feels somehow perverse, a failure to fully appreciate him enough while he provided us with entertainment and excitement.
As the baseball world begins to memorialize their fraternity brother, the joy he brought to the game was impossible to ignore. He had just enthusiasm for life, a way of bringing a smile to everything he did. He made it fun to watch him play baseball, and made it so abundantly clear that he loved to play the game.
To memorialize him yesterday, many clubs made Fernandez jerseys with his name and number 16 in their own colors. The Cubs were one of those teams, hanging a 16 Cubs Fernandez jersey. There had been discussions about Chicago looking into trading for him during the coming offseason, an idea that I, as a fan, had gotten excited about. I would have loved to have seen Fernandez’s name written in Cubby blue. I certainly didn’t want to see it like that.
May his memory be forever a blessing to all who knew him, all who loved him, and all who shared a love for his game.