By Jon Weisman
A number of Dodgers had personal connections with José Fernández, such as Austin Barnes, Chris Hatcher and Kiké Hernández, who all played in the Marlins organization with the All-Star right-hander.
But perhaps no one in Los Angeles was closer to the Miami All-Star, who died overnight in a boating accident, than Yasiel Puig.
“I’m very sad about what happened,” Puig told reporters this morning in the Dodger clubhouse. “He was Cuban and a very close friend of mine.”
Puig spoke about how much he liked seeing Fernández when the Dodgers played Miami, but their relationship ran deeper.
“When we were in Miami, he would give me advice on how to better myself,” Puig said. “Last time he gave me more advice. And now I’ve lost him.”
Dave Roberts said he walked in from the parking lot today with Puig, who was obviously upset, and offered to let him sit out today’s game — but Puig asked to play.
“It’s tragic,” Roberts said. “I had many (encounters) with José and had some great conversations, just the joy of life and family and baseball. To wake up this morning and hear that news, it’s devastating, it really is. You think about his family, his mom, his grandmother — he’s got a young child coming. You feel for the family.”
Dee Gordon kneeling at the mound tribute to Jose Fernandez (via @MLBNetwork) pic.twitter.com/pe9Wraswvd
— Jon Weisman (@jonweisman) September 25, 2016
Hernández, who in his MLB debut year of 2014 was a teammate of Fernández, felt the passing on a professional and personal level. Hernández also has family that was born in Cuba, including his mother.
“He didn’t struggle that much, because he was that good, but even when he struggled it seemed like he enjoyed it,” Hernández said. “Obviously, it’s a huge loss for the sport. I reached out to Justin Bour, one of my close friends on the Marlins, and told him ‘I can’t even begin to think about what you guys are going through,’ because I’m kind of distant from the situation and it’s still affecting me.
“My grandpa (in) Puerto Rico, he’s been out of Cuba for over 40 years, and the same way he talks about Yasiel he talks about Jose. To have an effect like that on an entire country and sport just shows what kind of talent and person he was. My grandpa said it was amazing to watch, that one kid could just paralyze an entire country when he pitched.”
Barnes met Fernández playing for Single-A Jamestown in 2011.
“His enthusiasm for life was incredible,” Barnes said. “He affected everybody he was around. He had a big personality. It’s a sad day.”
Chris Hatcher, who was in the Marlins organization of 2014, said that Giancarlo Stanton has the best summation of Fernández’s joy and talent for the game.
“I think I heard Stanton say, ‘He was a kid among men, but he dominated the men,'” Hatcher recalled.
My deepest condolences to his family, friends teammates and love ones.
A devastating and profound loss for the game of baseball. Kershaw said prior to Sunday’s game that Fernandez had the best stuff in the game for a starting pitcher. High praise from the best pitcher on the planet, but he wasn’t overstating it. Fernandez’s slider was unhittable and it is also not overstating it to say Fernandez was already well on his way to the Hall of Fame already at 24 years old. An incredible talent and every baseball fan should mourn the fact we will never get to watch him pitch again.