Fans remember Miami Marlins pitcher with parade, prayers at Cuban shrine

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jasen Vinlove, USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

By Tom Tracy

MIAMI (CNS) — South Florida’s
Cuban-American Catholic community and other Miami Marlins baseball fans planned
to honor Jose Fernandez with prayers at the Cuban shrine and a public parade Sept.
28, a day before his private funeral.

Fernandez, a pitcher and popular
Cuban-American member of the Marlins team, died Sept. 25 following a tragic
boating accident that also took the lives of several of his companions. They
were on a late-night outing when their craft struck a jetty near Miami Beach.

With fans set to gather at the
West Plaza at Marlins Park, organizers said the Sept. 28 procession would depart
at 2:16 p.m. local time — “16” was Fernandez’s uniform number — and then move
on to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Charity near Miami’s Biscayne Bay and
not far from the accident.

The procession was then to proceed to
St. Brendan Catholic Church in Miami where a public visitation was scheduled
for 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. A private funeral for Fernandez was to be held Sept. 29.

Father Juan Rumin Dominguez,
rector of Our Lady of Charity shrine, described Fernandez as “the young face of
the Cuban diaspora.”

“This is a young man who is a
source of pride for us Cubans, an example for our community and especially for
Cuban young people,” said Father Dominguez.

“He was able to reach the
highest goals. That’s why he’s an example to our Cuban young people,” the
priest said. “He demonstrated that with dedication and effort, you can achieve
the highest goals in this country.”

Other clergy throughout the
region reportedly referred to the tragedy in their homilies and offered prayers
for Fernandez Sept. 25.

Fernandez, 24, and two other men
were killed early that Sunday when his 32-foot SeaVee boat slammed into a rock
jetty that extends off the southern tip of Miami Beach.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife
Conservation Commission continues to investigate the crash. The Miami-Dade
County medical examiner has not yet released toxicology results.

Fans established a makeshift
memorial on the plaza outside the ballpark entrance, leaving dozens of flower
arrangements — daisies, carnations, roses and lilies, the result as colorful
as Fernandez’s personality. There also were candles, and messages scrawled on
balls, balloons, photos and jerseys.

A spokeswoman for American
Social Bar & Restaurant in Miami reportedly confirmed Sept. 27 to news
media that Fernandez was a patron at the establishment before the crash. The
bar is along the Miami River and allows boats to dock alongside.

Emilio Macias, 27, and Eduardo
Rivero, 25, also died in the accident.

Since the tragedy, the Marlins
have been grieving while also returning to playing games. In evening game Sept.
26, they defeated the Mets in an emotional and tearful game.

“I think the routine of the
game is really good for you,” manager Don Mattingly said in a news release
posted on the Marlins website. “You’ve been doing this almost the whole
season. Yeah, we feel it’s almost like autopilot, fielding ground balls, take
at-bats. It’s almost mindless. So it does good to be on the field. It feels
good to prepare for a game.”

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Contributing to this story was
Ana Rodriguez-Soto.

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