Miami-Dade commissioners Tuesday briskly agreed to rename a thoroughfare outside Marlins Park after Jose Fernandez, opting to move forward with an honor complicated by recent news that the star pitcher had alcohol and cocaine in his system when he and two companions died in a crash on Fernandez’s powerboat.
Sponsor Bruno Barreiro did not directly address the circumstances of the crash, beyond saying “there was a tragic incident in the end, but he paid with his life.”
“This naming is for the life … he led as a baseball player,” Barreiro said. “He reached heights that very few have reached.”
Barreiro’s resolution was placed on the commission’s agenda days before Miami-Dade released the Fernandez autopsy report Saturday on the heels of a public-records lawsuit by the Miami Herald. The report showed Fernandez, 24, was legally drunk and with cocaine in his system at the time of the Sept. 25 crash, which also killed two other men in the boat: Emilio Jesus Macias, 27, and Eduardo Rivero, 25.
We’re naming the street because of all the positiveness he did in this community — as a ballplayer and as a human being.
Commissioner Bruno Barreiro
While Tuesday’s meeting drew 12 commissioners, only seven were in their seats at the dais when the Fernandez item came up on the agenda. Esteban “Steve” Bovo, the vice-chairman left with the gavel in Chairman Jean Monestime’s absence, called for a voice vote. No one objected.
Sitting with Barreiro and Bovo at the dais were Daniella Levine Cava, Jose “Pepe” Diaz, Audrey Edmonson, Sally Heyman, and Rebeca Sosa. Besides Monestime, those missing from their seats were Barbara Jordan, Xavier Suarez, Javier Souto and Juan C. Zapata. Commissioner Dennis Moss arrived at the meeting hours after the vote. (Because most commissioners were still in the chambers, the Fernandez resolution was recorded as passing 11 to 0, with Moss and Suarez recorded as absent.)
Fernandez was born in Cuba and jailed for trying to flee the country before finally making it to the United States at age 15. His Cuban story helped amplify Fernandez’s success on the pitcher’s mound, making him a Miami favorite well before his death on a jetty off Miami Beach shortly after 3 a.m. on the day of the crash.
Suarez said that he had to leave the chambers to deal with an urgent issue at the time of the vote, but that he supported creating Jose Fernandez Avenue. He “had an amazing impact — not only as a player but as a recent refugee who reminded us what a great country we live in.”
The resolution renames a 2 1/2 mile stretch of 17th Avenue after Fernandez, starting at U.S. 1 and moving north to River Drive, just north of Marlins Park.
The resolution renames a 2 1/2 mile stretch of 17th Avenue after Fernandez, starting at U.S. 1 and moving north to River Drive, just north of Marlins Park. The legislation takes effect in 10 days provided Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez does not veto the resolution. Gimenez spokesman Michael Hernández said late Tuesday that the mayor “supports the commission action” on Fernandez Avenue and won’t veto it.
Investigators have said high speed and alcohol played a role in the fatal crash, but it’s not publicly known who was at the wheel at the time of the collision. A lawyer for Fernandez’s family said a witness reported a phone conversation with the baseball star moments before the crash where he was urging someone to turn the boat before the line went dead.
After the vote, Barreiro, whose district includes Marlins Park, said he wrestled with whether to go forward with his resolution after the autopsy results were made public. He said he’s resolved to stick with the renaming plan even if the investigation finds Fernandez responsible for the crash. “We’re naming the street,” he said, “because of all the positiveness he did in this community — as a ballplayer and as a human being.”
“People say what example am I giving children?” Barreiro said. “For children, it would just be a very clear example of what not to do. How to live a good life, and allow one situation [that] messes up your life.”
This post was updated to clarify that the county commission’s quorum rules count commissioners in the chambers, rather than just those in their seats.