Miami Marlins

Teary-eyed Marlins win one for Jose

The Miami Marlins left behind their hats at the pitching mound in tribute of Jose Fernandez after the end of a baseball game against the New York Mets on Mon., Sept. 26, 2016.
The Miami Marlins left behind their hats at the pitching mound in tribute of Jose Fernandez after the end of a baseball game against the New York Mets on Mon., Sept. 26, 2016. mocner@miamiherald.com

Dee Gordon did something he rarely does. He homered.

Then he did something he has never done. He cried about it.

On a solemn night when tears were flowing for Jose Fernandez, Gordon — the diminutive second baseman for the Marlins — provided some healing with one shocking swing of the bat.

It brought the crowd of 26,993 — one of the largest of the season — to life at Marlins Park.

And it inspired a team that for the previous 36 hours tried to cope with the numbing loss of their pitching ace and biggest cheerleader. Fernandez, who died in a boating accident early Sunday, would have enjoyed every moment of it.

The Marlins wept openly during a pre-game ceremony that felt more like a memorial service than a sporting event. Every player and coach wore Fernandez’s name and number 16 on the back of their jerseys.

When they took the field, all eight starters touched the chalk line, a Fernandez ritual after a win. They stood for the National Anthem on the grass perimeter around the same mound where Fernandez had gone 29-2, crying still. Martin Prado cried. Marcel Ozuna sobbed, shaking his head and shielding his face with his cap.

Even Giancarlo Stanton, the Marlins’ herculean slugger, spent the entire top of the first in right field with tears running down his face.

The crying was everywhere.

Scott Boras, Fernandez’s agent, was practically bawling when he showed up at Marlins Park.

“I think when you get here,” Boras said, surveying the ballpark, “it hits.”

Others tried to reflect, explain, make sense of something that was beyond understanding.

One day after Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating accident, the Marlins honor him with emotional win on Mon., Sept. 26, 2016.

Marlins president David Samson sat in the dugout, wondering what might have been had Fernandez remained on schedule to pitch Sunday instead of being pushed back to Monday in order to safeguard his arm. Had that been the case, it is doubtful Fernandez would have gone out on a boat hours before pitching.

“I’ve been thinking about that a lot,” Samson said. “If he had pitched yesterday (Sunday) maybe fate would be different. I’ve been thinking about that a lot.”

His voice trailed off.

There was owner Jeffrey Loria recalling how, after spotting Fernandez walking around New York City with his things in a couple of shopping bags after first being called up to the majors in 2013, demanded he buy luggage.

The Miami Marlins pull out an emotional win over the Mets on Mon., Sept. 26, 2016.

“I said this is not going to work for baseball. It’s not going to work for me,” Loria recalled. “Tomorrow, you and I are going to the store. We’re going to get you the bags and the roller bags you need so you look like a Major League baseball player.”

And they did, with Loria picking up the tab.

There was manager Don Mattingly, who had broken down at Sunday’s news conference as he spoke of how Fernandez reminded him of a “little kid,” still trying to come to grips with what had happened when he spoke to reporters beforehand.

“We’ve got to go on, and that’s not going to be fun tonight,” Mattingly said. “I think guys are still processing how to handle it.”

Miami Marlins fan Nicholas Gonzalez talks about how the death of pitcher Jose Fernandez has made him feel prior to the Marlins and Mets game on Mon., Sept. 26, 2016.

When he was asked if he thought players would rather cancel the team’s remaining six games than have to suffer through an emotionally challenging final week, he paused for a moment to give it some thought.

“I don’t know,” Mattingly said. “I have no idea how to answer that. It might feel good for these guys to come out and play.”

And maybe it did.

Maybe it was Gordon, the smallest Marlin, who gave it a kickstart, did something that none of the English- and Spanish-language grief counselors that the team has brought in for players and staff possibly could.

Gordon was the first man up for the Marlins on Monday.

Perhaps no Marlin has shown more sadness and pain than has Gordon.

He was weeping when he showed up at the ballpark on Sunday for a game that was never played. It was Gordon who wore a white R.I.P. t-shirt, with a photo image of Fernandez forming the ‘I”, out to batting practice Monday. It was Gordon who placed Fernandez’s glove and cap next to the rubber as Marlins hitters took their pre-game practice swings.

And it was Gordon who brought the Marlins to life in one magical instant.

President of the Miami Marlins, David Samson, center, speaks during a press conference as distraught president of baseball operations, Michael Hill, left, and team manager, Don Mattingly, right, and players mourn at the news of pitcher Jose Fernan

Gordon, who had hit one fewer homer this season than the Mets’ portly pitcher, 43-year-old Bartolo Colon, knocked one of his pitches into the upper deck, and a cloud was lifted.

Gordon circled the bases, touched home plate, and instantly began sobbing as he made his way through the dugout, congratulated by coaches and teammates.

The Marlins scored five runs in the second and another in the third, sending Colon to the showers.

The Marlins won 7-3.

Afterward, they removed their Fernandez jerseys, never to be worn again.

Loria said no Marlin will ever wear No. 16 again.

“There are plenty of numbers they can wear,” Loria said. “But not that one. We’ll let them use triple digits if they have to.”

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