I am 42. My father came from Cuba in 1953, before Fidel Castro. My mother came in 1962. I grew up in a loving, lower-middle-class family in Westchester. There was so much love, warmth and baseball in our home.
Baseball was my life between the ages of 4 and 18. My father didn’t miss a game. El Viejo was always standing on the right field line while I threw an 85-mile-per-hour fastball at the age of 16. He loved the game more than I did. I was just a kid.
The party and the buzz ended up being a bigger draw for me than the mound, so tendonitis and a rotator-cuff injury ended the baseball dreams. God blessed me with brains; it was truly nothing I did, so a law degree and some good luck gave a me a head start. But addiction and South Beach would take its toll and countless rehabs and detoxes later would land me back at that Westchester house at 42. It’s where I would sit with El Viejo and watch the Marlins. How things come full circle.
The Marlins game is the highlight of the day at my parents’ house and every Fifth Day, when José Fernandez would pitch was a special day. He was everything I was supposed to be, and more. The way he jumped off the mound was the product of pure passion and joy.
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I am divorced and picked up my daughters Sunday morning for our weekend day together. About 2 minutes into the pickup, my eldest, Bella, turned to me and said, “Papi, did you hear about José Fernandez ?”
I felt weak. I pulled over and called El Viejo. I could feel his pain through the phone.
This one hit home. Live your life. You have no idea how fragile it is.
Izzy Alfonso, Westchester
Honor No. 16
I have no words to express my sadness at José Fernandez’s passing. He was a true role model, and his death is a huge loss for our community. A story book story with a tragic ending. Honor No. 16 with a smile and a good deed.
Sue Freedman, Plantation
The news of the deaths of three young men, including José Fernandez, is devastating and brings to mind so many parental fears.
My younger son never could understand our neurotic concern that he text us each night: “But Dad, I’m a 30-year-old man!” But he doesn’t get that our feelings are involuntary or how that feeling in your stomach goes away when you see “Love you dad” on the screen or that gratuitous “Yeah” when you ask, “ You good?”
I’ve always thought that the scariest moment for a parent is when your child takes the car out alone for the first time. That panic that recedes when you hear the car return hours later.
I can’t stop tearing as I think of the families’ grief, the suddenness of the loss. I recall telling my son that if I lost them, there is not enough Prozac to bring me back to coherency.
So to my boys, to all children: Take care, and be sure and check in with the parents, abuelos and siblings. We love you so much.
Mike Melnick, North Miami Beach