Sad Denoument for El Keed

First of all, heartfelt thanks to everyone – including not a few of my long time readers and correspondents from the old days at Circling the Bases – who emailed or texted me or posted here or otherwise reached out to express their condolences, understanding that like any serious fan I take the loss of my heroes personally and hard.

So. I drove over to Marlins Park this morning to be part of whatever impromptu memorial might invent itself. On the ride over one of the local sports radio shows tried to interview Craig Minervini, the FoxSports Florida reporter for the team who had one of the best rapports with Jose. Minervini, a professional sports journalist and sportscaster of nearly 30 years’ standing, kept choking up and couldn’t finish the interview. The audio spectacle made a bleak drive even more wretchedly surreal.

Sombre as you might expect, there were several hundred people there. Some were, like me, just there because they felt they should be. We’d come to talk to each other but were trafficking in grief cliches and the occasional memory of a standout moment in a standout career. There was some crying and hugging but, really, not much. I attribute that to shock rather than indifference. I was talking to one guy whose name I still don’t know but whom I recognized as owning a couple of box seats near where I usually sit. We recalled a few of El Keed’s great games, the sick catch of Tulowitzki’s liner, the brouhaha with the Braves over Jose’s admiring his home run, and some other odds and ends. Were were both very emotional. He said “see you next season” as I walked away, as if he couldn’t wait for this accursed one to be over already.

Most of the crowd, though, were gathered under the two electronic boards above the ticket windows that read “Today’s game has been cancelled,” lined up to exchange or obtain refunds for their tickets. Commerce proceeds. Blessedly, there was minimal security presence and even more blessedly, less press presence. I saw only one antenna truck parked out front and didn’t notice any journalists working the small crowd. A small comfort when small comforts could be prized.

Inside, the Marlins were preparing for a press conference that they ultimately held at around 12:30 and to which I listened on the drive home. The ballplayers had selected Martin Prado to represent them at the dais, along with Don Mattingly, Michael Hill and David Samson. The rest of the team stood quietly behind and off to their left, half-dressed in their jersey tops. Most seemed still to be in shock, a few visibly trying to hold it together. Prado was emotional but professional; when asked how they’d manage to play tomorrow he replied “We’re human beings, not robots – but we’ll find a way to get it done.” Mattingly was distraught and kept repeating himself, rubbing his eyes and trying to hold it together. Michael Hill lost it completely after trying to reminisce about introducing Jose to the press when he was drafted and needed Mattingly to console him. Samson handled himself in a businesslike manner befitting someone with icewater in his veins. Everyone else had their human moments. So it goes.

Jose Fernandez was 24 years old, an expectant father, loving son and grandson, and soon-to-be husband. A town that by and large dislikes this franchise because of its ownership is wounded today. All the rest is trivia.

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21 thoughts on “Sad Denoument for El Keed

  1. Well said, as always, Gator. Please accept my condolences on the loss of one of the Feesh’s brightest stars. You know the universe isn’t fair when you lose someone of the calibre of El Keed but still must endure people like Donald Trump and Jeff Loria.

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  2. Dear Old Gator,

    As I sit here, listening to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and the taunting rain, I mourn for the passing of a young supernova we called Jose Fernandez. My heart weeps at the injustice and irony of the universe snatching a nearly perfect human specimen at his peak, one who nearly died in a boating accident to come to a dream we call America only to die in a boating accident taken for fun. Why? It all seems surreal. We will wake up from this nightmare and in a few days, he will take the mound again, as is supposed to happen. Right? This is wrong. It didn’t happen. The best young pitcher did not just die so ignominiously. No. No! NOOOOO! I refuse to believe this news.

    I know we have had our differences of opinion, Old Gator, but my heart breaks for you. I know you are a TRUE FAN of not just the Feesh, but of baseball. This is the worst tragedy I have experienced in the game. I can only begin to imagine how you feel. My sincerest condolences to you, old friend, Old Gator.

    With love,
    Johanna

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    • I know you don’t have much respect for Twitter, but I saw this after I wrote my comment to you.

      Exactly. A Supernova.

      May the souls he left on this earth find some peace. His beautiful, vibrant son will one day pitch. Of that, I am certain. 🙂 Yes, he will.

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      • Anytime. I still cannot look at the news without hyperventilating. I am seriously literally sick over this. Like I said, I can only imagine how you feel. I had trouble working. Every time I glanced at a tv and saw his name flash, tears would flood my eyes. I can’t even comment on HBT. I posted on my Twitter account, but it’s different. I haven’t been able to really look at news since the Orlando shootings. I get panic attacks. I have been able to a little since Jose passed because I identify so closely with the young man. He played like I nurse. With passion and joy. And we are both terribly misunderstood by people who don’t understand Latino culture. We don’t mean to show anybody up. We just are passionate lively people. We like to live life to the fullest, and it is misunderstood by many. I am in Target typing this on a store computer, I am getting weird looks. Who is the woman in scrubs crying typing on a store computer? I better go pay, go home, go mourn. I am sorry for the way I left the web site. I didn’t mean to do it that way.

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  3. Casey McGehee is now with the Tigers but used to play for the Marlins. He’s in the dugout today, but had some great words about Fernandez playing with his son when he was in Miami. Jose Iglesias was apparently good friends with Fernandez — both escaped from Cuba and they were neighbors in FL. Iggy was choked up before the game…and scratched from the lineup (in consideration of his grief). There have been remembrances at the Tigers-Royals game today — including a moment of silence and Sal Perez wrote “RIP JF16” on his chest protector with a marker.

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  4. Coda: I pretty much wrote the day off. Did some light reading, took a nap, took a swim. Nothing that required much thinking.

    The media here are of course infatuated with this tragedy. My daughter who lives in Little Havana tells me it’s like a morgue over there. Jose was the quintessential expression of the Cuban-American exilic experience and their collective triumph in their new life in a nutshell.

    Maybe tomorrow I’ll try to think about what this all means for the franchise. Tonight, I’m reading Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass until I fall asleep.

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  5. My condolences to you, Gator, and to all affected by this loss.

    It was a privilege to watch this young man pitch, but I gather from what I’ve heard today that it was an even larger privilege to have known him, and the world’s a bit diminished with him no longer in it.

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  7. I don’t think there is any tragedy I find more affecting than that of a young adult, on the verge of the real achievements of life, dying suddenly. And in Fernandez we had one whose achievements were likely to be memorable.

    This – not even taking into account that he had experienced more just getting to America than many do in a lifetime.

    Lance McCullers at Houston was a training partner of Jose’s. He was so broken up that he was unable to complete an interview with the local reporters. And several Astros scribed “16” on their caps. A lot of the measure of the man can be taken from the reactions of those who knew him personally.

    Recqescat in Pace, Jose. We lose by your absence.

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  8. Jose Fernandez was a fantastic young man, but we should note that two other young men, both according to press reports between 24 and 27 years old, also died. Their deaths are just as tragic.

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      • They say they are withholding their names until they privately inform the families which is appropriate, but surely they have done this by now. Reading some of the Florida papers I was able to gleam that one of them was the son of a Miami – Dade police detective. Perhaps that has something to do with it or perhaps the families, if so understandably, wish to avoid press attention.

        But it bugs me that all of the reports extolling Fernandez (deservedly) at best include nothing more than a ‘BTW two other guys got killed too’. I think that this sort of celebrity obsessed callousness cheapens the response to his death. I bet that Fernandez would not have wanted them to be forgotten.

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  9. Thanks, Gator. Thanks, Fan Interference, for keeping this community together. I never thought I’d come here to grieve, if you will. I don’t have the real world friends or family with the level of understanding you all do when it comes to baseball. Everyone gets the tragedy of it all but I’m grappling with more than that. The “whatcouldabeens” on top of that horrible sense of tragedy. This guy truly was special on and off the field. He was the real deal. His career was on a trajectory to set him up as one of the next major ambassadors of the sport we all love. Everyone tied to baseball in any meaningful way lost something special yesterday.

    I’m sure baseball will be fun to think about and watch again very soon. But for now, I have to take a night off. Instead I will watch our country debate itself into oblivion. My thoughts and condolences are with El Keed’s family and with all of my fellow fans.

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