The stories about Jose Fernandez continue to be told, about his personality and his passion and presence, and you almost have to remind yourself that he was 24 years old because he somehow managed to touch so many others in such a short time. It seems like he shared time with just about everyone in the game, moments that have become memories -- keepsakes, really.
The Cardinals' Brayan Pena tells about how Fernandez declared that one day, Pena would be president of Cuba. Pena's reply: The only way that could happen is if Jose ran alongside him. Cubs manager Joe Maddon spoke about the first pitch he saw Fernandez throw in a game, the conviction and the delivery so unique that he turned to a coach and remarked about how special Fernandez was, after that sample size of one pitch. Mike Matheny, manager of the Cardinals, spoke about watching Fernandez and recognizing how well he integrated positive emotion into everything he did on the field.
Nick Markakis will always be able to tell his children and grandchildren about, how in the final days of his life, Fernandez -- who seemed to have more fun than anybody playing the game he loved -- turned a moment of violence on the field into an effort at understanding. On Sept. 14, Fernandez pitched against the Braves, and after he had hit Markakis with a pitch, Jose Ramirez threw a pitch near the head of Fernandez, in apparent retaliation. What happened thereafter -- you can watch it here -- can stand as a window into Fernandez's personality.
Fernandez ducked under Ramirez's fastball and got off the ground furious about the pitch, for which Ramirez was ejected, and the benches emptied. But as the players from the teams pushed against each other, Markakis circled toward Fernandez, who wasn't looking to fight; he was looking to reason with the Braves. Dee Gordon stood in front of Fernandez, poised to restrain him, but on the videotape, you can see Fernandez tell Gordon that he's under control.
"Come here," he says to Markakis, and the two come together, just to talk.
About 70 seconds into this clip, you can hear him on the field microphones yelling to the Braves' players about 70 seconds that he understood why Ramirez threw at him -- "I don't mind!" he says repeatedly -- but adds: "Don't throw at the head."
As the field cleared and Fernandez prepared to resume his at-bat, he spoke with Braves catcher Tyler Flowers (about 2 minutes, 25 seconds into the video), explaining his perspective. The exchanges were something you almost never see in bench-clearing incidents, the target of a would-be beanball trying to explain himself and serve as a peace-maker rather than starting a brawl.
That's who Jose Fernandez was, a young man whose happiness in what he did was so apparent that it was tangible, affecting those around him: teammates, opponents, fans, reporters, everybody.
This is why the Baseball Writers' Association -- the owners of the Most Valuable Player Award, the Cy Young Award and the Rookie and Manager of the Year Awards -- would be well-served to create an award to honor Fernandez and provide an annual remembrance.
The Jose Fernandez Award could be given to the young player who, in his first years in the big leagues, best exemplifies Fernandez's spirit of joy and passion, in the way he plays and treats his peers and fans. Players in their first three years in the big leagues could be eligible. Jose Altuve would've been a great candidate for that sort of award in his first years in the big leagues, or Mookie Betts, or Francisco Lindor, the type of people who are young leaders, in the way that Fernandez was.
Fernandez's impact on his peers was reflected in everything that happened in Miami on Monday, from the pregame ceremony to Dee Gordon's home run; Gordon seemed to honor Fernandez in the way that Bobby Murcer once honored Thurman Munson.
The Mets' announcers choked up while talking about Fernandez.