José Fernández, the 24-year-old pitcher for the Miami Marlins, died in a boating accident after crashing into a jetty near Miami Beach early Sunday morning. The news was heartbreaking to the sports world as José was seen as a fun, charismatic, genuine young talent with potential. It’s needless to say the Marlins game that following Monday commenced with high emotions.
A solemn version of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” echoed throughout the ballpark while grown men wept in disbelief that their friend wouldn’t be taking the mound that day. Afterward, each of the Marlins etched José’s number into the pitcher’s mound, and the entire Mets team came onto the field to pay their condolences to the players. After all the hugs and tears, there was still a ball game to be played.
After a quick top half of the first inning for the Mets, the second baseman Dee Gordon stepped up to the plate as the leadoff hitter for the Marlins. Although he bats lefty, he took one pitch in a right-handed stance to honor José. He switched helmets and walked to the other side of the batters box. He took another ball; the count is 2-0. The next pitch was a fastball right down the middle and Gordon sent that ball high and deep into right field. As that ball sailed through the air, everybody watching that game wanted that ball to leave the ballpark – and it did. As Gordon rounded the bases it was clear that he was overcome with emotion, feeling as if he received some assistance from above. It was his first home run of the season. As he stepped to home plate, he bumped his chest and pointed upward as if to say “that was for you.” His teammates greeted him on his way to the dugout as he sobbed uncontrollably. His teammates hugged and congratulated him all the way to the locker room.
This was one of those moments that will give you goosebumps every time you watch it because you can understand the significance behind that home run shot. That highlight will be immortalized as one of the best moments in sports of all time.
The human aspect of sports is what makes them so beautiful. We idolize athletes to a point where it seems like we could never be close to them because they’re too busy or too famous. But when we are watching the game for reasons other than the sport itself, we can connect with them by way of empathy and understanding what they’re going through as people, and not as athletes.