Coming out of "retirement" to write a few things.
Honestly, while I do love baseball, I can't muster the same kind of enthusiasm that I had when I first began running this blog... or even before I began this blog, really. Is that what growing up is? I guess not, really. It's personal issues that have hampered/dampened my excitement -- while I don't tend to speak about these issues on a "public" blog like this one, this is the reality I live in.
That being said, I do still love baseball, and I enjoy watching it, and there are still individual players that can coax me the midst of the dull haze... my usual darlings and lovies, and, though he wasn't a part of the Braves organization, José Fernández. I remember gushing to Lauren on more than one occasion how much I just love José. I love watching him pitch, love watching him hit, love watching his antics in the dugout, love reading and looking at his Instagram. He was just instantly loveable, to me. I think I fell in love a little the moment I first saw him on television. How can you not? He was so very adorable -- that face! That dazzling smile! He just seemed so very happy. The happiness he had just from... breathing... it was... it IS magenetic. It was magical to watch him play baseball
I had just seen him play the Braves... September 14, 2016. A great match up. Our own adorable Julio Teheran vs the vibrant happy José Fernández. I was sitting in the front row of section 118, right next to the dugout. I was less than 20 feet away from him. I could see his teeth because he smiled so widely as he spoke exuberantly to his coaches, his teammates. I could hear him laughing and gesturing wildly. I saw him playing with his hair. He was lively, unabashed, totally at ease, and full of cheek and mischief. He was so very animated. Just looking at him made me smile; he utterly melted my ice-cold heart from the get-go through the television... so in person, it was even more intense. This wasn't the first time I've seen him live, but it was the first time I was so close. The seats themselves make me smile, but in spite of the Braves losing, I couldn't stop grinning. The fans around me were very confused when I cheered simultaneously for the Braves and the Marlins. I couldn't help myself... Martín Prado? Jeff Francoeur? Giancarlo "Mike/I'm not even a rookie anymore" Stanton? Suzuki Ichiro? And that ebullient, joyous José Fernández? Yes please, all of this forever. I, in fact, told my friends that, with the exception of a few players, I would have been perfectly pleased to exchange the entire team with the Braves. I love the Braves, but the Marlins are simply more fun and more entertaining to watch. Not because they are now winning... but they just... they're more fun. It's just true.
In my head, I called him "Baby Boy." I don't think I told anybody that, because it's just silly... I didn't know him! It seemed presumptuous, but I felt like I DID know him... He had that sparkle of kid in the candy store about baseball -- it emanated from him in tidal waves. If you had any kind of soul, you could feel it -- in person, on television. It was palpable and real. You could tell he didn't take himself too seriously. I couldn't help but adore him. I got actually mad when fans of my team booed him. (He had beaned Nick Markakis -- also one of my boys... and then our guy tried to bean him back... aimed for the head from what I saw. Our guy got thrown out. I don't like beanings, but I also get it... but not the head, people.) (Also, I generally hate booing.) He took all of it in stride, and though he struck out, he kind of shrugged and smiled once he was back in the dugout... and proceeded to dismantle us when he was back on the mound. All while smiling.
I feel incomprehensibly and incredibly saddened by his death. I felt sickened, to be honest. I still feel a bit nauseated, actually. I'm currently out of town, in Durham, NC, working a bead show with my mother. The convention center in which the bead show is hosted is connected to a hotel... and the hotel bar/lounge area has televisions. I was passing by the lounge to get coffee for my mother when I saw images and videos of Baby Boy José plastered on 2 of the screens (but I was too far away to read the text or hear any of the audio). As soon as I got her coffee, I took out my phone and Googled him, thinking, "He must've done something amazing during a game... or at worst, he got suspended for something silly and ridiculous." To my horror, the first thing I saw was "Marlins Pitcher Jose Fernandez, 2 Others Killed In Miami Boat Crash."
I remember gasping and tearing up and feeling an overwhelming urge to vomit. Is this a joke?
I got on Twitter. (I get news from Twitter, y'all. That is the state of journalism nowadays... that is tragic.)
It was not.
It was not, from multiple sources. I Googled again, hoping that this was the worst, most tasteless hoax. Some terrible hack.
But it wasn't a hoax. It was not a joke. How can this be real?
My first thought was, "Oh, God... but his girlfriend and their baby... oh, no, this can't be." Followed by, "Does Lauren know?" I didn't want to break the news to my girl so early in the morning. (Because of the bead show, I've been up since 6 AM. I think I found out around 8:15...) I still feel ill. Lauren ended up contacting me, actually. We are mourning together over the internet. We are feeling sad for his family, for his girlfriend, for their baby-on-the-way...
I've been all over Twitter, reading about his smile, his infectious beautiful genuine smile. His laughter, his liveliness. There were mentions of his baseball prowess, of course. But mostly? Everybody spoke of his heart, his laughter, his smile, his journey from Cuba, his relationship with his family. What a legacy to leave at only the age of 24... that he remembered first and foremost for his vivacious personality and his love of family and life... and then his dominance in the baseball world.
Rest in peace, Baby Boy. May you continue to shine down upon us, and may your joyousness serve as a reminder and example to others to live life passion, to love life as hard as you can, and to laugh through it all.