Zach Thomann, Staff Writer
Dee Gordon stepped up to the plate on Monday, Sept. 26 with a heavy heart. He was leading off the bottom of the first inning for the Miami Marlins wearing number 16 – the number that his teammate wore. Gordon, along with the rest of the team, paid tribute to the recent passing of Jose Fernandez by wearing his jersey.
Gordon took the first pitch batting in a right-handed stance to honor his friend also wearing Fernandez’s batting helmet. Then after moving back to the left hand side of the batter’s box, he took it one step further. Gordon cracked a pitch over the right field wall marking his first home run of the year. Gordon wept around the base path overwhelmed with the memory of his friend.
“That’s the best moment of my life to hit a homerun for him,” Gordon said.
The city of Miami and baseball fans around the world mourned the passing of Fernandez Sunday afternoon when a boating accident took his life. Cuban and Hispanic cultures were crushed to hear that one of the most influential athletes within their ethnicity died so suddenly.
“My mother called and asked me if I had heard of his death,” assistant baseball coach Angel Zapata said.
Zapata’s mother is not known as a baseball fan, but being part of a Hispanic family, the passing of Fernandez has an impact on her.
A large percentage of Miami is home to Hispanic families, thus affecting the entire city.
Fernandez was only 24 years old with a great future ahead of him. The ace of the Marlins pitching staff was leading the league in strikeouts and had been known as “Dominant” when it came to baseball. Fernandez was also a genuine guy that played the game the same way he did as a child, with nothing but a smile on his face. The way he carried himself on and off the field made him a role model to his fans.
“This is something I always address to my players,” head Utica College baseball coach, Joe Milazzo said. “My players are almost the same age as Fernandez, so we try to prevent things like this from happening.”
Malazzo stressed that one moment can ultimately throw someone’s life away. There are countless actions that can ruin a career or even take a life.
Although some things can be prevented, people don’t live forever. Sept. 25 was also the day the world lost Arnold Palmer. Society may associate the name with a popular iced tea, but Palmer was a world-class golfer.
At 87-years-old, Palmer’s death became a celebration of the life he lived. He was a role model to any aspiring golfer and also brought the sport into the limelight.
“Palmer peaked the interest of middle and lower class people when it came to golf,” Head UC golf coach, Brian Marcantonio said. “Most people at the time viewed golf as a sport for snobby, rich people.”
Even as a role model, Marcantonio would never use Palmer’s golf swing as a reference.
His unique swing wasn’t textbook, but it did lead to seven major championships. “There might not be a Tiger Woods without Palmer,” Marcantonio said.
It’s clear that the passing of both Palmer and Fernandez caused the world to pause and reflect. An athlete’s legacy is the only thing that is left behind once they are gone.