Baseball lost one of its rising stars today in Miami Marlins pitcher José Fernández, who passed away earlier this morning in a boating accident. He was 24 years old.
According to Chief Petty Officer Nyxolyno Cangemi, a Coast Guard patrol boat discovered the overturned boat on a jetty at 3:30 am on September 25. Two others died in the crash, as well. Fernández had recently announced via Instagram that he was expecting his first child with girlfriend Carla Mendoza.
Fernández won the Rookie of the Year Award in 2013 after posting a 12-6 record with a 2.19 ERA and 187 strikeouts in 172.2 innings pitched. After missing much of 2014 and 2015 due to injury, he bounced back this season with a 16-8 record and 253 strikeouts, putting him in contention for the NL Cy Young Award.
His road to the show was not an easy one. Born in Santa Clara, Cuba, he failed three times to defect to the United States, winding up in prison each time, before finally arriving in 2008. During his final voyage to the U.S., he saved his mother from drowning after she had fallen overboard.
He played high school baseball in Tampa, Florida, before being picked by Miami in the first round in 2011. Due to the large population of Cubans in Miami, he quickly became a fan favorite.
With a fastball that touched 100 mph and a knee-buckling curveball, Fernández was one of the toughest pitchers in the league to hit, averaging 11.2 strikeouts per 9 innings in his short career. His last outing was against the Washington Nationals on Sept. 20., when he struck out 12 batters in 8 innings and picked up the win.
The Miami Marlins organization expressed their condolences in an official statement posted on twitter, saying that their “thoughts and prayers are with his family at this very difficult time.”
Today’s game between the Marlins and the Braves has been cancelled.