Miami Marlins pitcher José Fernández was 24 years old when he died on September 25, 2016.
Out partying with two of his friends, Fernández and his friends decided to take the pitcher’s boat for a joyride. The boat, captained by Fernández, crashed into a jetty around 3:30 a.m. that morning. All three men passed away.Screenshot/Univision
Fernández and one of the passengers were under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
The 24-year-old was scheduled to pitch the following day.
Five months after Fernández’s untimely death, his girlfriend, Maria Arias, gave birth to their baby girl, Penelope Joe.
On June 1, the Marlins organization announced that it’s set up a trust fund for Fernández and Aria’s daughter, and for Fernández’s mother, Maritza. According to the Orlando Sentinel:
Marlins president David Samson said Thursday that the fund will ensure Penelope will be able to finish all schooling debt-free and will receive a distribution of remaining money into adulthood. In addition, Fernandez’s mother, Maritza, will receive an annual sum under the trust.
And on what would have been her father’s 25th birthday, July 31, Penelope entered the Marlins’ stadium for the first time.
The family and daughter of Jose Fernandez visit Marlins Park for the first time since his death. via FOX Sports Florida / FOX Sports Sun
Posted by FOX Sports on Monday, July 31, 2017
According to the Miami Herald, there wasn’t a dry eye in the stadium during her debut. Marlins infielder Miguel Rojas acknowledged that Penelope looked just like her father:
“She is beautiful. She has the same face as Jose. Even the hair. Kind of the messy hair like his when he came out of the showers. That’s a little piece that we kind of need to remember him. This is a little piece of Jose in this world.”
Rojas told the Miami Herald that they weren’t at all expecting to see Penelope and that it was exactly what a lot of them needed on that particular day:
“I was hitting in the cage and Dee [Gordon] brought her in. I wasn’t expecting her at all. Right away, a lot of emotions. [Marcell] Ozuna was hitting in the other cage. We stopped what we were doing. It was really cool to see her and remember Jose.”
When Bryce Harper and Gio Gonzalez of the Washington Nationals — who shared an agent with Fernández — learned his daughter was at the field, they made sure to take advantage of the opportunity to meet their friend’s pride and joy.
Harper later thanked his agent’s assistant for setting up the meeting:
“Thanks. I needed this a lot.”
It seems that it was something all of those close to Fernández needed to celebrate him on his birthday.