Major League Baseball quietly has given the Miami Marlins $700,000 as a result of Jose Fernandez’s death in a Sept. 25 boating accident, and the Marlins this past week allocated all of that money to a trust for Fernandez’s three-month old daughter Penelope and to Jose’s mother, Maritza, according to industry sources.
MLB has a policy in which it gives a team $1 million if one of its players dies. But MLB’s insurance company that’s responsible for those payments initially balked at giving MLB (and thus, the Marlins) the $1 million because the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission concluded that Fernandez had been driving the boat at the time of the crash and had traces of cocaine in his system and a blood-alcohol level of .147, nearly twice the legal limit.
The insurance company and MLB instead recently negotiated a $700,000 payout.
Marlins president David Samson said he would not comment on anything relating to an insurance settlement but confirmed the Marlins and owner Jeffrey Loria made a significant contribution to the family this past weekend.
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“The focus for us and Jeffrey is making sure Maritza and Penelope were taken care of in the aftermath of such an unimaginable tragedy,” Samson said. “To the extent that there were proceeds from any insurance policy for the benefit of the Marlins, there was never a doubt that Jeffrey and the Marlins would pass those proceeds directly to Penelope.”
Samson and two other Marlins officials on Saturday went to the Miami home of Maritza Fernandez and told her and Maria Arias – who was Jose Fernandez’s girlfriend and the mother of their child - that a trust was created and Samson would be the trustee.
“We told them the Marlins would put aside a substantial amount of money to pay for all of Penelope’s education from now until postgraduate and Maria would never need to worry about Penelope again from an education standpoint, and Penelope would graduate from any school and graduate school without debt,” Samson said.
Beyond the Marlins paying for Penelope’s education, Maritza Fernandez will receive an annual allocation from that trust. The remainder of the $700,000 can be used by Penelope after her education is paid for. Penelope Jo Fernandez was born Feb. 24.
“I held Penelope in my arms and told her she will be taken care of,” Samson said of Saturday’s emotional meeting. “We were clear [after Fernandez’s death] that Jose would always be a part of the Marlins’ family, and that Maritza and Maria would always be a part of the Marlins family. We would make sure no one forgot them.
“We have stayed in constant touch with them. We were there when Penelope was born. We have committed to being in their lives forever. You can never make up for growing up without a father, but we are trying to help in any way possible for Penelope to have a life that is fulfilling and meaningful.”
In an interview last month, Arias told People Magazine that Fernandez picked Penelope’s name after a Spanish song.
“You have days that you look at her and you feel happiness and gratitude, and then there are other days where you feel afraid and you feel lonely and you feel the weight of his absence again,” Arias said. “He makes such an impact in your life, that his absence just feels so heavy.”
Arias said Jose “loved her from the moment she was conceived. Everyone knew how excited he was to be a dad, he made sure of it…. I will forever talk about him. I will never let his memory die. I will always keep him alive, no matter how much that hurts me. Because she deserves that from me; and from all of us. And so does he. He was a beautiful person, we who truly knew him talk about him that way and value him that way, and we’ll continue to do that.”
Arias told People that she has kept a piece of Fernandez’s clothing “since he passed that I sleep with every night, and I took it with me. I had it around my neck the whole time. So, when they put her on top of me it was kind of like both of us being present.”
Fernandez had $6.5 million in career earnings, but his estate is facing two negligence-and-wrongful lawsuits from relatives of Eduardo Rivero and Emilio Macias, who were passengers in Fernandez’s boat on the night of the accident that killed all three men.
Is the money in this Marlins-arranged trust invulnerable to those lawsuits?
“I have no comment on any legal proceedings, but this trust is for the benefit of Penelope and has nothing to do with the estate of Jose,” Samson said.
Ralph Fernandez, Jose Fernandez’s attorney, said the pitcher’s estate is not worth as much as people assume. “I can assure you that it does not exceed $2 million,” he told The Miami Herald earlier this year.
Loria also paid for all of Fernandez’s funeral costs and is erecting a nine-to-10 foot bronze “larger than life” statue of Fernandez outside Marlins Park. That statue is expected to be completed this offseason.
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