Jose Fernandez, one of the most talented and beloved players in Major League Baseball, died Sunday morning in a boating accident off Miami Beach. He was 24.
Miami is in mourning – and not just the franchise.
“It’s one of those things that, (there’s) still a darkness over the city at this point in time because he’s such a vibrant guy,” Miami radio host Orlando Alzugaray said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “I’m Cuban-American. My parents were both born in Cuba. I was born here, but obviously the Cuban culture is well-ingrained in me.”
Cuban-Americans, Alzugaray explained, take great pride in people of Cuban descent succeeding in America.
“It doesn’t matter who it is,” he said. “When you talk about somebody of Cuban culture stepping up to the plate and becoming successful in this country, it becomes a real motivation for the rest of the community down here in South Florida and for Cubans throughout the country. That connection, there’s a lot of pride in that because people fight so much to get to this country. We lose a lot of Cubans in the process. We’ve lost a lot of patience too because we’re all fighting to get here, to enjoy freedom, to enjoy the right to actually try to live a great life. That’s something that this country provides that no other country provides. If you ever live down here in South Florida or drive down here in South Florida, you’re going to feel the Cuban influence and obviously how it’s entrenched here because there are so many people that have enjoyed success in this country because they fought the oppression, they got away from it, came here to build a better life – and that’s exactly what Jose did.
“So Jose is one of those many inspirational stories that we have down here in South Florida of people trying to get away from the oppression of Castro and come here to build a better life,” Alzugaray continued. “That’s exactly what he was able to do for his family. That’s why it’s so emotional – because we know how much it means that every Cuban that succeeds, that Cuban is helping another Cuban or supporting another one. And we know that now that Jose is gone, there’s going to be a lot of people that are going to be hurting because of this.”
Fernandez, one of three men killed in the accident, died of trauma, not drowning. Based on the damage to the boat, speed is believed to have been a primary factor in the crash. There was no evidence of alcohol or illegal drug use.
The Marlins canceled Sunday’s home game against Atlanta, and the number “16” was painted on the mound at Marlins Park on Sunday. It was a nice tribute to Fernandez, but his death is something the franchise and city may never truly get over.
“There’s this connection and this understanding that it’s just something that (all) immigrants can kind of feel it because we’ve all come from some part of the world to come to this country,” Alzugaray explained. “That’s why I think it hurts so much down here right now. Because here’s a young man that almost lost his life getting here, was jailed many times for fighting against the government in Cuba, and to finally get here and to build his life the way he was headed to – it’s just one of those things that you feel. We lost Jose. We lost his magic. But his family is the one that lost Jose, and that’s going to be the big tragedy.”