Jose Fernandez Tribute
Fans lined up Monday evening outside Marlins Park in a procession that extended along on the west side of the stadium.
Some wore Marlins jerseys, shirts and hats and some came were clad in Mets gear.
No matter to which team they pledged their baseball allegiance, they all took some time to honor the memory of Jose Fernandez.
The Marlins played the Mets in their first game since Miami’s star pitcher died in a boating accident early Sunday morning.
Fans from both clubs filed their way toward a makeshift memorial dedicated to Fernandez that began forming Sunday morning after news of his death went public.
The site — located near one of the support columns of the stadium’s retractable roof adjacent to the home plate garage — continued to grow in volume of flowers, pictures and now written dedications signed on a wall that displayed Fernandez’s name and jersey number.
“I found him to be inspirational,” said Lisa Chirino, a longtime Marlins fan who attended Monday’s game along with her husband, Joe, and daughter, Alicia. “My husband came from Cuba on the freedom flights. Jose’s smile and the way he talked to people you could just tell he had a beautiful spirit.”
Some fans like season-ticket holder Marilyn Bohorquez couldn’t hold back her tears as she walked away after signing the wall.
“I am from Santa Clara in Cuba, Jose’s hometown,” Bohorquez said. “To think he went through so much at sea to get here and then he dies at sea. He was an incredible person, not just a baseball player.”
She wasn’t the only one that was emotional. Several fans sobbed as they took slow steps in line. Some wept openly, too shaken to speak.
Bohorquez attended Monday’s game with her daughter and said she has had season tickets a few rows behind the Marlins’ dugout since the park opened in 2012. She also attended games when the team was still the Florida Marlins and shared the stadium with the Dolphins.
“I feel so bad for what his family must be going through,” Bohorquez said. “It’s so sad.”
Chirino and her family were going to come to the game Sunday to watch Fernandez pitch as well as Monday’s game because her husband is a Mets fan.
Joe Chirino wore a Mets jersey with the No. 16 taped over the back side to show his respect for Fernandez as well as root for his team.
“He just had a perseverance about him,” Alicia Chirino said. “He was only a year older than me. To come here and accomplish his dreams and do what he wanted to do said a lot about who he was.”
Christina McDonald brought both her sons, Christopher, 8, and Anthony, 5, to the game Monday. Her sons met Fernandez once while they were playing Little League baseball.
“The thing I’ll miss most was his smile,” McDonald said. “He always so happy when he was out there.”
Kerry Bajrangi, a Mets fan from Orlando, said he comes down at least once a year to catch a Mets game at Marlins Park.
He and his friends had only seen Fernandez pitch once during those visits. But it was enough to come away impressed.
“He was inspiration to the Cuban community, and his story was inspirational,” Bajrangi said. “His death was pretty shocking because he’s one of the huge stars of South Florida and was on his way to have a huge career.”
Bohorquez met Fernandez once at a game and said she fell in love with his youthful personality.
“Baseball lost an angel,” Bohorquez said. “He was a spectacular person.”