It’s a sign of how dominant he was in a short amount of time that former pitcher Alex Fernandez made the College Baseball Hall of Fame on Feb. 11 despite leaving for the pro ranks after his sophomore season.
He pitched one season for the University of Miami, going 15-2 and posting a 2.01 ERA, leading the Hurricanes to the 1989 College World Series. Fernandez was named the national Freshman of the Year and a first-team All-American.
After that brilliant season, which also included the first no-hitter by a freshman in school history, Fernandez had a conversation with his uncle, Joe Arriola.
“He saw the numbers I put up and felt I didn’t have anything more to prove in college,” Fernandez said.
What Fernandez did next was something unheard of at the time. He left UM to play junior-college ball, which gave him the option of signing pro after his sophomore season instead of having to wait an extra year.
Fernandez got loads of offers but signed with Miami-Dade South Community College, where he went 15-1 and was given the Golden Spikes award.
“That’s basically the Heisman Trophy of college baseball, and until Bryce Harper did it [in 2010], I was the only junior-college player to win that award,” Fernandez said.
Fernandez’s move to junior college worked exceptionally well — he was the fourth overall pick in the 1990 draft — and he went on to a decade-long Major League Baseball career that included helping the Marlins win the 1997 World Series.
He will be inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame on June 28 in Lubbock, Texas, and he will be joined by five other men, including two who also have strong ties to Miami — Demie Mainieri and Mike Fiore.
Mainieri was the coach at Miami-Dade North for 30 years, starting in 1960. He became the first junior-college coach to win 1,000 games. He finished his career with 1,012 wins and joins Fernandez and outfielder Odibee McDowell as former players or coaches with MDC ties who have made the College Hall of Fame.
Fiore, an outfielder, was a four-year starter and set 12 UM career batting records, including most hits, runs, doubles, RBI and total bases. He joins Fernandez and three other men with UM ties in the College Hall of Fame — coaches Ron Fraser and Skip Bertman and pitcher Neal Heaton.
Fernandez said he is thrilled to join a group that includes huge names such as Lou Gehrig (Columbia), Jackie Robinson (UCLA), Barry Larkin (Michigan), Dave Winfield (Minnesota) and Lou Brock (Southern) — just to name a few.
Meanwhile, though they are not related, Fernandez has kept a close watch on a player he shares a lot in common with. The similarities between current Marlins star Jose Fernandez and Alex are many — standout right-handed pitchers with ties to Cuba and the Marlins.
Both were first-round picks. And both made the majors at age 20.
“I know him very well,” Alex Fernandez said of Jose. “I saw him pitch in a high school all-star game, and I said: ‘This kid is going to be in the big leagues before you know it.’ “He’s got electric stuff, and he’s great for the game.”