Dontrelle Willis called the news of José Fernandez dying in a boat crash off Miami Beach on Sunday morning “hellacious.”
Dan Jennings, who drafted Fernandez as the Marlins’ general manager and then managed him on the field last season, said he was “crushed” by the news.
They weren’t alone.
The shocking news coming out of Miami Beach early Sunday swept through social media.
Fernandez was 24.
“This has been a hellacious morning,’’ Willis, a star pitcher with the Florida Marlins, said to SiriusXM’s MLB Radio on on Sunday.
“It’s sad because on my bobblehead day, I got to meet him. ... He sought me out before the game. I was taken aback and impressed with him. I feel he’s the best pitcher the Marlins have ever had in their organization. He was proud to be part of the organization, to lift up the Marlins name.”
Jennings and Fernandez had a special relationship which dated to Fernandez’s high school days at Tampa Alonso.
“My wife always joked that we had a fourth son and that was Jose,” Jennings told SiriusXM.
“I loved the kid, everything about him. Being in the dugout with him and seeing the interaction with his teammates; he was the guy who could light up a room. He could break silent moments, lift people up when they were down. He was a throwback. He loved the game of baseball.”
Tweets expressing shock at the news as well as support for Fernandez’s family rolled in from the sports world both local and nationally.
Boston’s David Ortiz put up a tweet in Spanish which translated read “I have no words to describe the pain I feel for the loss of jose ... goodbye friend.”
Wrote Dwyane Wade: “I just landed to this awful, awful news. I didn’t know Jose Fernandez, but I was a fan from a far.”
TBS announcer and Hall of Fame pitcher Pedro Martinez said Fernandez’s death is tragic on many levels.
“It’s not only sad for baseball, but [also] the culture, the family, and the hope that the entire family has,” Martinez said. “That’s a kid that went through a lot of struggles [to make it]. Destiny tells you where you are going to end up. It’s hard for me to believe that this day is going on. A kid so energetic, so happy all the time… all the things we can say about him.”
Added former Marlins star Gary Sheffield: “Wow. That’s all I can say at this point is, wow. Condolences go out to the family, big time, because when stuff like this happens, especially in the baseball family – baseball is really a family – when you lose a guy in your family, it hits home and it hits you right here [in the heart]. To know this young man in Tampa, Florida, he wanted to meet me. I didn’t think it was a big deal until I met him. I came to meet him, he was working out with all the Cuban players, and when I met this kid, there was a spirit about him that lights up the room. He gives and he breathes energy into you.”