Dee Gordon was in tears after honoring his friend
Dee Gordon hadn’t hit a home run all year.
The Miami Marlins’ leadoff hitter, in the team’s first game since star pitcher Jose Fernandez was killed in a boat accident over the weekend, paid tribute to his teammate by stepping into the batter’s box from the right side of the plate Monday night against the New York Mets. Gordon, who normally bats left-handed, took one pitch from the right side—Fernandez batted righty and was a pretty good hitter in his own right—while wearing Fernandez’s batting helmet and No. 16 jersey; indeed, the entire Marlins team wore No. 16 on Monday night, and a 16 was painted on the Marlins Park pitcher’s mound.
Gordon then switched to the left side of the plate and put on his own helmet. He took one pitch. Then he blasted the next one into the right-field seats.
Gordon was in tears by the time he finished rounded the bases and crossed home plate, pointing up to acknowledge Fernandez before being embraced by his teammates. It was the perfect, almost storybook-like tribute to his friend.
“It seemed like it took forever [to round the bases],” he said. “I was trying to get back to my teammates as fast as possible. I was just wondering why Jose wasn’t there standing on the top step cheering for me.”
Even the Mets appreciated the moment.
“I saw him crying when he rounded first base,” Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud said. “I was crying too.”
Fernandez was the team’s ace and one of the best young pitchers in baseball. He also was someone who was beloved by his teammates.
“When I think of Jose, I think about a little kid,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “I see such a little boy. He played with the joy of a Little Leaguer.
"There was just joy with him when he played, and when he pitched.”
Fernandez and two others died early Sunday morning after the boat they were on crashed into a jetty near Miami Beach. Fernandez, who defected from Cuba—saving his mother after she fell into the water along the way—was 24 years old. Fernandez’s girlfriend is pregnant with their first child.
In Fernandez’s final start, on Sept. 20, he pitched eight innings, gave up no runs and just three hits while striking out 12 in Miami’s 1-0 win over the Washington Nationals.
“He told one of our teammates that was the best game he had ever pitched,” teammate Martin Prado said. “And now he’s gone.”
Gordon had four hits Monday night as the Marlins beat the Mets 7-3. The Marlins honored Fernandez in a pregame ceremony, and the team announced it will retire his No. 16.