September 25, 2016
NEW YORK – Odubel Herrera was the only Phillies player at the All-Star Game two months ago in San Diego, and like any first-time All-Star, he was both honored to be in a room with the very best in the game while also excited for the experience, too.
His parents may have been the only people more amped up.
On the day before the game, during an afternoon when every player sits at a table inside a hotel ballroom for media access for close to an hour, Herrera’s parents tried to grab a photo with every All-Star at the Manchester Grand Hyatt.
Including one with Marlins ace Jose Fernandez.
“I think (my dad) was a fan of him,” Herrera said Sunday inside a somber clubhouse at Citi Field, where many players arrived to hear the news of Fernandez’s tragic death in a boating accident. “My dad loves baseball, he’s always watching baseball. He liked how he pitched.”
Herrera, a native of Venezuela, and Fernandez, who risked his life (and saved his mother) while defecting from Cuba, were not best friends or the kind of guys who hung out outside the ballpark. But both shared similar personalities.
Just as everyone in baseball has always been drawn to Fernandez’s infectious exuberance, everyone in the Phillies clubhouse has gravitated to Herrera since his arrival winters ago. Herrera last spoke to Fernandez a week ago, when the Marlins were about to board their bus following a three-game series at Citizens Bank Park.
“I like talking to him because he was a humble guy,” Herrera said. “He liked helping people out. It’s nice when you encounter people like that. … I like the way he pitched a lot, and I also liked the way he handled himself in the dugout. He was always encouraging people up, you know, cheering people up, encouraging others.”
The news of Fernandez’s death played throughout the morning on the only TV in the visiting clubhouse with the volume turned up. More than a dozen players watched the live press conference from Miami.
While sitting in the same room Fernandez and the Marlins have occupied throughout the season, the Phillies mostly watched the news in silence.
“I found out when I walked into the clubhouse,” Herrera said. “It shocked me.”
Herrera was proud to admit he shares the same enthusiasm Fernandez brought to the field, always showing “energy and passion,” always smiling. When asked about the impact Fernandez made and what people can learn from his legacy, Herrera said it was just that: an unflappable positive personality that matched his undeniable pitching talent.
“It’s really good to remember that you have to play the game with joy, with happiness, and to take every moment out of it,” Herrera said.
Fitting that national anthem, song about freedom, followed moment of silence for Cuban defector Jose Fernandez pic.twitter.com/pyNvIEALfB— Leslie Gudel (@lesliegudel) September 25, 2016
Here's Jimmy Rollins on the passing of Jose Fernandez: pic.twitter.com/m3Lun1Cl65— Ryan Lawrence (@ryanlawrence21) September 25, 2016
The entire Marlins team - players and coaches - are at press conference.— clarkspencer (@clarkspencer) September 25, 2016
Marlins press conference pic.twitter.com/y810udkp6J— clarkspencer (@clarkspencer) September 25, 2016
Mattingly: "When I think about Jose, I see such a little boy. The way he played, there was just joy with him."— clarkspencer (@clarkspencer) September 25, 2016
Thoughts an prayers go out to the Fernandez family! Such devastating news to wake up to. RIP Jose Fernandez 🙏🏼— Vince Velasquez (@vjvelasquezrhp) September 25, 2016
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Jose Fernandez & the entire Marlins organization.— Phillies (@Phillies) September 25, 2016
Absolutely devastating losing such a role model and competitor. Jose set the bar high for the future of the game on and off the field.— Zach Eflin (@zeflin12) September 25, 2016
Very saddened to hear about the loss of Jose Fernandez, baseball lost one of the best in the game. Praying for the Marlins and his family!— Cameron Rupp (@CameronRupp) September 25, 2016
I tend to stay off of Twitter on start days but I cannot believe the news about Jose Fernandez. The game and the world just lost a great one— Jon Lester (@JLester34) September 25, 2016
Absolutely devastated hearing about Jose. Thoughts and prayers go to his family, friends, and Marlins org.— Mike Trout (@MikeTrout) September 25, 2016
Today is a sad day in baseball. Jose Fernandez brought an intensity to this game that could naturally ignite an entire stadium #RIPJose— andrew mccutchen (@TheCUTCH22) September 25, 2016
Absolutely crushed and shocked at the news about Jo-Fez..My thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends, and the @Marlins org!— Bryce Harper (@Bharper3407) September 25, 2016
Devastated by the horrible news this morning. Our thoughts and prayers for Jose Fernandez' family. So bright, so young, so sad.— Raúl Ibañez (@RaulIbanezMLB) September 25, 2016
I've never heard a soul in the baseball or sportswriting worlds utter a bad word about Fernandez. Honestly. Can't tell you how rare that is.— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) September 25, 2016
Jose Fernandez understood that baseball is supposed to be fun. That was his secret.— John Finger (@jrfinger) September 25, 2016