By: Belinda Smith

Jose Fernandez: A Tribute


I have been a fan of baseball for many, many years.  I have early memories of my dad, who was also a baseball fan, listening to Mets games on the radio.  I can clearly recall the voices of Lindsay Nelson, Ralph Kiner and Bob Murphy stream from his old black-and-white Panasonic radio.  Baseball is one of the few sports that can be equally enjoyed on the radio as the television.  And my dad preferred listening to the Mets games on the radio.  Why he was a Mets fan – or a baseball fan – I never found out, but I can close my eyes and hear the sound of summer in those voices.

I am old enough to remember the death of Yankees catcher Thurman Munson.  I remember Munson’s grizzled walrus-like moustache, his catching gear, his long-sleeved black t-shirt underneath his pinstripes.  And the baseball cap – always a soft cap, never a hard shell – worn backwards.  He had the body of a catcher.  Munson loved baseball, and he loved his family.  So much so that he wanted to learn to be a pilot, to be able to fly home to his beloved family.  Which resulted in his ultimate and untimely death.

I am also old enough to remember the 70s tv shows “Brian’s Song” and “Something for Joey” – tv movies that I guess can be marked under the heading, “Grown Men Do Cry”.  As a female, us girls are hard-wired for crying but for grown men, who were raised in the 60s and 70s, crying was a no-no.  A super no-no.  I have heard stories over the years and listened to men talk about Brian’s Song and Something for Joey and how it softened their resolve just a bit.  It made them human.

Watching the Marlins team on Monday, Sept. 26, two days after the death of their beloved ace, Jose Fernandez and three days before they would make their final goodbyes, I thought of those 70s tv movies that taught grown men to cry.  I watched Dee Gordon, whose first inning homer off of Mets starter Bartolo Colon, round the bases sobbing, his hands pointed upward towards the heavens.

I watched the Marlins team come together at the end of a 7-3 victory over a subdued Mets team and gather in a circle, embracing, wearing black, with #16 on their backs.  They kneeled around the pitchers mound, with the #16 marked in the orange and black of the Marlins colors.  It was almost as if the pitcher’s mound itself had become a kind of shrine, a headstone if you will.  A grave.  Mets starter Noah Syndergaard, who would pitch the following night, tweeted after Tuesday’s game that he “usually write something funny after a win like this…just doesn’t feel right tonite.  Not after pitching on Jose’s mound. #Respect16.”

Perhaps that’s what it was and what it became:  Jose’s mound.  The Marlins players, openly weeping, knelt in silence, and several very gently, lay their baseball caps on the pitcher’s mound.  Like lost souls, their black caps lay in salute for a fallen comrade, a beloved son, a gifted and talented pitcher, and a real American.

#Respect 16.

About Belinda Smith

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