The Mets were ready to face Jose Fernandez on Monday night in Miami, but then the 24-year-old ace of the Miami Marlins was gone, killed in a boating accident.
Fernandez was 24. And suddenly baseball didn’t matter much to the Mets. A fellow player, one who embraced the game, had been taken.
Fernandez, a Cuban defector, had lived enough life to gain perspective beyond his years. Just one year ago, Fernandez quoted on his Twitter account, “If you were given a book with the story of your life, would you read the end?’’
A year later, his life, one that Noah Syndergaard believed would have held the promise of induction into the Hall of Fame, had come to an end.
The stunned Mets were just arriving at Citi Field when they heard the news.
“I got here this morning, I had no idea,’’ Wilmer Flores said. “Devastating. When you think about him, it’s watching him out there pitch. It’s just devastating. There’s no words to say what you feel, It’s a shame. ‘’
When Flores was asked how Fernandez will be remembered, he said: “A lot of energy. When you [saw] him pitching, that’s what you are going to remember. It’s just devastating news. Whenever we were going to face him, it wasn’t going to be a fun night . . . You want to get a hit so bad because he’s a competitor, you also want to compete . . . He was special and he was good. One of the best sliders I’ve ever seen.’’
Veteran catcher Rene Rivera was in shock. “Not only a great player, a great person,’’ he said.. “It’s sad to hear the news. A great baseball player, enjoyed the game so much. It’s a big loss to the Latino community and to baseball. He tried to come to the U.S. and follow his dream. He enjoyed baseball so much, this is a big loss.’’
Rivera was asked to contemplate the thought that perhaps Fernandez would not have been out late Saturday had he had been kept on schedule to pitch Sunday against the Braves instead of Monday when the wild card-chasing Mets arrived.
“You cannot control what God has for you,’’ Rivera said. “When it’s your time, it’s your time. If he pitched today, it might have been something different. Only God knows.’’
Jacob deGrom heard the news when Kelly Johnson told him to check his phone as both drove to Citi Field. “It was definitely very shocking and sad,’’ deGrom said. “He was a great guy to watch pitch, compete. One of the best pitchers in the game. It’s definitely a sad day for baseball.
“I don’t think anybody really brought more energy out there to the field. And even when he was in the dugout, you’d look over there and he’d be rooting on his team more than anybody you’ve probably ever seen. You don’t want to take this for granted and I don’t think he did. I think every day, he went out there and gave 100 percent. He put it all out on the field. It’s a very tragic accident and you never know how long you get to play this game.”
DeGrom, who is out for the year after surgery on his elbow, was asked how the Mets might be affected by the loss of a player many got to know during his brief time in the majors.
“This is more of a life thing,’’ he said. “There are things that are more important than baseball. And that’s definitely life and somebody’s life. . . . It definitely will be a day we won’t forget anytime soon.’’