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Of all the tributes we’ve seen to Jose Fernandez over the past two days, the best one came from Miami Marlins teammate Dee Gordon, bat in hand, blasting an unlikely home run to lead off Monday’s emotionally charged game in Miami.
It was Gordon who was seen kneeling in grief in front of the No. 16 the Marlins painted on the field Sunday, in an image shared all around the internet. It was Gordon who before Monday’s game was wearing a custom made T-shirt honoring Fernandez and “JDF16 4EVER” scrawled across his baseball cap.
And it was Gordon — without a homer all season — who came up and knocked the third pitch he saw from the New York Mets’ Bartolo Colon over the fence. If you need any more proof that Fernandez was on Gordon’s mind, he started his at-bat from the right side of the plate, like Fernandez, then switched to hitting lefty after the first pitch.
When Gordon crossed home plate, the tears were flowing. He banged his fist against his chest and motioned to the sky, sure that his friend was watching him. Every Marlins player hugged him on his way back to the dugout. And when he got there, Gordon put his head on the shoulder of Marlins manager Don Mattingly and cried some more, like a son would do to his father.
You can be sure he wasn’t the only one crying. The entire baseball world has stunned by the death of Fernandez at age 24 in a boating accident early Sunday morning in Miami. That afternoon’s game was canceled. On Monday, Marlins players all wore his No. 16, then ownership announced no one would ever wear the number again. They were retiring it.
Gordon’s homer capped a very emotional pregame ceremony, in which the Marlins and Mets honored tearfully Fernandez on the field. When it was over, they gave each other hugs. Then Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton gathered his teammates around the pitcher’s mound for a pep talk.
It was more subdued than normal, of course, but TV cameras caught Stanton telling his teammates: “We’re going to find a way to do this.”
Dee Gordon certainly did. There’s no question.
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