Every time Felo Ramírez ran into Jose Fernandez in the clubhouse or in the dugout before a game, they would give each other a hug.
Ramírez, the Cuban-born legendary Marlins Hall of Fame Spanish radio broadcaster, echoed the sentiments of the baseball world Sunday in the wake of the tragic death of Fernandez.
“We’re all feeling a great sadness,” said Ramírez, who at age 93 still broadcasts every Marlins game home and away on the Spanish station Radio Mambí, 710 AM. “In the sports sense, we were in the presence of someone tremendous. He had great enthusiasm all the time. He was unforgettable.”
Ramirez frequently visits the clubhouse prior to games at home and on the road.
Both Hispanic and non-Hispanic players, coaches and executives often take a moment to interact with Ramirez and often share a few laughs.
With Fernandez and Ramirez, the mutual respect was noticeable.
Ramirez said he built a close relationship with Fernandez and his family from the moment Fernandez joined the franchise.
“The first person from his family I met was his mom,” Ramirez said. “She introduced herself and told me ‘I’m his mom.’ Since that day I became close with the whole family, and we used to keep in touch and talk a lot.”
Ramirez, who has covered numerous legends and memorable moments over more than 60 years of broadcasting baseball, said few athletes he has ever covered had the commanding presence that Fernandez did.
“Baseball has had its share of tragic moments over the years,” Ramirez said. “You look at when Roberto Clemente died for example. But over the course of the 100-plus years that Major League Baseball has existed, I think we haven’t seen a presence like the one we saw when we watched Jose.”
“Frankly, we are all feeling the greatest sadness today, and not just here but in every country of the world even where baseball is not the main sport,” Ramirez said. “You always knew of him. His presence powerfully commanded your attention.”
Ramirez mourned the loss of Fernandez as did many Sunday around Marlins Park.
Ramirez said his friendliness with fans and his heroic deeds during his journey to reach the United States exemplified the kind of person Fernandez was.
“Jose was unique,” Ramirez said. “He was a tremendous representative of the Cuban community. He fled Cuba and had great difficulty reaching the U.S. He saved his mother’s life. That’s a fact that no one will ever forget.
“The love he showed for not only his mother and his grandmother, but for anyone he met. Those little details like when he met people, autographed a baseball and made friends easily with people, those are the details no one will forget.
“We’ve lost someone special and it has left us all deeply hurt.”