4 days ago
Monday, August 26, 2013
The subject matter of this post may leave some of you cold for it appears to have a sports theme when in actuality, it has mostly a human theme.
The Florida Marlins baseball team have not had much to crow about this year. We are in rebuilding mode and have a field full of talented rookies, but still rookies.
I won't bore you with the Marlin's win/loss record, just trust me, it isn't pretty. However, what has been pretty and absolutely delightful this year has been Jose Fernandez. I won't go into his amazing stats, his perfect All Star performance, his Rookie of the Year possibilities, nor emphasize that he just last month turned 21 years old. Just know he is an amazingly talented baseball phenom.
Watching him pitch this year has been such a blessing in a bleak season. But,what is equally as fun is to watch is him when he doesn't play. This is a delightful kid, every mom's son or the son every woman wish she had. No attitude or puffed up feelings of self importance though he would not be blamed it he had those. He is that good of a player. What he has is a kid's joy of the game and the confident talent of a Hall of Fame quality seasoned pro.
The story of how he got here is most amazing. Jose was born in Cuba. His step father defected to the US before the rest of the family and settled in Tampa. With a home base set up by the step dad, Jose and his mom attempted the harrowing trip. Three times they unsuccessfully tried to defect, caught each time. Once shots were fired over their heads to turn them back. The kid was thrown in jail each time with hardened criminals after the captures but they didn't stop trying.
The fourth time they tried, they were successful though the trip was quite rough. At one point Jose heard a yell that a person had fallen over board. He didn't hesitate and jumped in the shark filled, rough waters for the rescue and was stunned to find the person in the water was his mother. Ok, that would make a good movie and probably some day, I think it will.
Jose entered a Tampa high school, taking 3 English classes a day to learn the language. He now speaks perfect English. He helped to take his school's baseball team to a state championships twice.
In 2011 the Marlins drafted the talented young man. Due to pitching woes and injuries to our regular pitching staff this year, he was brought up to the pros ahead of schedule at the age of 20.
His talent is undeniable but it is the boy's heart and attitude that has me so impressed. He is a happy kid, with a huge grin, who loves his life, baseball and will talk to anyone willing.
When it is not his day to pitch, he is on the rail as the team's #1 cheerleader. When pitching, he is a consummate pro between the lines but open and laughing with teammates between innings or can be found picking the brains of everyone from coaches to veterans.
His pure joy for the game and delightful grin is infectious. He lifts his whole team plus the fan base.
But the young man is more than talent and personality. He gives back at an age when most guys are just wanting to make a mark and a buck. He is actively involved in the Marlin's Community Charity.
Jose stays after each game to sign autographs for the fans and posing for pictures. When you look on the empty field at games end, he is the only one with his cluster of grateful fans. Some pros will sign autographs before the game but afterwards they usually head for the showers after a hard evening's work. Not Jose.
He also enjoys the after game concerts and fireworks. Things most pro athletes ignore though lately it seems, several of the pros are joining him. These are thrills and first time events for him and he plans to miss nothing. His enthusiasm is contagious. When you start to see things through his eyes, you realize this life in the USA, that we too often take for granted, is pretty darn wonderful.
He makes even wore out, jaded old gals like me see things in a better, brighter light. I so look forward to his pitching day. For me it is a can't miss event with lots of warm smiles and proud feelings.
Sadly because he is so young, the team will limit his work load this year and will shut him down sometime in early Sept at 170 innings. That means about 2, maybe 3 more starts. I am all for this protective policy towards youngsters but I will sorely miss his starts.
If he comes into your viewing range, even if you don't care for baseball, give him a look. You won't be sorry. This talented young man is history in the making and a person you will find impossible not to like.
at 5:24 AM Posted by Arkansas Patti