I miss that smile.
Today marks the one year anniversary of the death of Jose Fernandez and two of his friends, Emilio Macias and Eduardo Rivero. They died because a brilliant, loving, talented, friendly, caring, but ultimately flawed and reckless man made a terrible mistake, paid the ultimate price and took two lives with him.
Jose was all of those things. I do not come to deify or demonize him. He was human, as I am, as you are. I will not rob him of the accolades that are due him, nor will I ignore the criticisms that should be laid at his feet. For Jose Fernandez was wonderful, wondrous, wounded, and wrong. He was all of those things, and for us to remember him is to be able to reconcile all of those things together in our hearts and minds.
Baseball misses him deeply. We miss that enthusiasm. We miss that corralled wildness, that velvet fastball, that willingness to cheer his teammates on even through bad times. The fun. The friendliness. The fire. We miss that. But no one misses him, or has a right to miss him, as much as the two women who have lost the most; the woman who gave him life and had her life given back in spades, the woman who knows exactly what’s missing from this world with his death, and the little girl who will never know exactly what she lost, the little girl with sparkly brown eyes and sweet mischievous dimples.
His teammates continue to mourn. Their lives have changed. The lives of his family have changed. The lives torn asunder because of a foolish, stupid mistake have changed. The friends and families of Macias and Rivero mourn as deeply, as purely, as anyone who has ever watched Jose pitch, or listened to him laugh. These are moments that no one can ever have back, and it’s because of purely recklessness.
What is the measure of a man? What, ultimately, is a person’s legacy? Is it what you do while you’re still alive, or what happens in your name once you’re gone? I believe it is both. It is what you brought into the world and what you leave behind. To that end, Jose Fernandez has a legacy that will live and shine for years to come. His death has impacted in ways that I can’t explain. He reminded everyone that baseball is fun, and should be fun. It was worth celebrating. It was worth striving for. Life was worth living. Freedom is a beautiful thing. But he also taught us that life is fleeting. It is not promised. It is to be treasured, and not gambled on with illicit drugs and unsafe behaviors.
He impacted lives, for good, and for bad, because he was a human being. And while he might have been one of the finest pitchers I’ve ever had the chance to see in my lifetime, and that brilliance is something that I will never forget, he was also a son, a friend, a teammate, a love, and a dad. All taken away from the world in the blink of an eye.
So, what is the measure of a man? I can’t define it, nor can you. It’s not up to us. Jose’s legacy, his memory, will evolve for years and decades to come. Even now a generation will look to him as a symbol of loss, and hopefully, of learning. Learning to live life fully, but to take care of that life. To have fun. To open your heart, to give more. To live more.
But most of all, to smile. Man, I miss that smile.