Dee Gordon entered the Marlins clubhouse on Monday holding a crying infant, walked her over to Jose Fernandez’s old corner locker, and showed her the uniforms and cleats that belonged to the father she’ll never know.
Penelope, the late pitcher’s five-month-old daughter, was wearing a miniature version of his uniform with “Fernandez” written across the back. Players stopped what they were doing to watch the scene unfold.
“She is beautiful,” said Marlins infielder Miguel Rojas. “She has the same face as Jose. Even the hair. Kind of the messy hair like his when he came out of the showers. That’s a little piece that we kind of need to remember him. This is a little piece of Jose in this world.”
Monday would have been Fernandez’s 25th birthday.
Fernandez’s mother and grandmother, as well as Maria Arias, Fernandez’s girlfriend and the mother of their child, spent it commemorating the pitching ace, who was killed in a boat crash 10 months ago.
His mother, Maritza Gomez Fernandez, returned to the scene of the accident, placing flowers and candles on the rocky jetty off Miami Beach where Fernandez and two of his companions lost their lives. Using a can of yellow spray paint, she spelled out “JDF16” and “Happy Birthday Delfy” on one of the boulders.
Delfy is a shortened version of Delfin, Fernandez’s middle name.
“My beautiful boy wherever you are today we are all going to remember and miss you so much,” she wrote on her Facebook page. “Your mommy is waiting for you my love. I love you so much my Delfy. Nothing harder than living without you my love.”
Later in the day, she presented a $25,000 check from the JDF16 Foundation to the Kiwanis Club of Little Havana to help local youth.
“I feel that Jose would be proud of what I am doing in his memory,” his mother said at the gathering. “He always wanted to help the kids. I see these kids and they remind me of Jose when he was five years old. He had almost nothing in Cuba to play and had to take care of things. This gift comes from Jose’s heart.”
Eventually, they all made their way to Marlins Park. It was there that Gordon, the Marlins’ second baseman, gave Penelope a tour of the team’s batting cages and clubhouse.
“I was hitting in the cage and Dee brought her in,” Rojas said. “I wasn’t expecting her at all. Right away, a lot of emotions. [Marcell] Ozuna was hitting in the other cage. We stopped what we were doing. It was really cool to see her and remember Jose.”
Gordon took Penelope to see manager Don Mattingly.
“It was great seeing that little girl,” Mattingly said. “Just a reminder, also, of last year…”
When word reached the visitors clubhouse that Fernandez’s family and daughter were at the ballpark, Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper and pitcher Gio Gonzalez put in a request to see her. Fernandez, Harper and Gonzalez all shared the same agent, Scott Boras.
Afterward, Harper thanked Boras’ Miami-based assistant, Alex Morin, for arranging the visit. “Thanks. I needed this a lot,” Harper wrote in a text to Morin.
The visit seemed to make everyone feel better.
“For us, it means the world because he’s been missed the whole time,” Rojas said. “We’ve been playing through it, but we’ll never forget him. I know it was supposed to be his birthday today. Wherever he is, we know he’s with us.”
Jose Ebro of El Nuevo Herald contributed to this story.