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Marlins Pitcher, Alonso Grad José Fernández Killed In Boating Crash

Sep 25, 2016

Miami Marlins pitcher José Fernández, who played for Tampa's Alonso High School, was killed early Sunday in a boat crash off Miami Beach, according to authorities. 

"The Miami Marlins organization is devastated by the tragic loss of José Fernández," said the team in a statement circulated via social media. "Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at a very difficult time."

The team also indicated that Sunday's game with the Atlanta Braves has been canceled.

Fernández was 24 years old. He was born on July 31, 1992 in Santa Clara, Cuba. He tried to escape the island three times before finally making to the United States when he was 15 years old.

He played at Tampa's Alonso High School, where he won the Saladino Memorial Award, given to Hillsborough County's top high school senior baseball player, after he led his team to the 2006 Class 6A state title.

At a press conference, a spokesperson for the U.S. Coast Guard said Fernández was one of three people killed when the 32-foot boat crashed into a rocky jetty off Miami Beach early Sunday. The other two passengers killed have not been identified by authorities yet.

Coast Guard Captain Megan Dean told reporters a Coast Guard ship on routine patrol noticed the overturned vessel around 3:15 in the morning on Sunday. A rescue effort with divers from the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue recovered two bodies from under the boat, and a third from the water nearby.

Dean said the Coast Guard has confirmed there are no additional victims. None of the victims were wearing life jackets when they were found.

A spokesperson for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Lorenzo Veloz, told reporters at the press conference there was "no indication of alcohol or any illegal drugs involved," and that "it does appear speed was involved, due to the impact."

All three victims, he said, were between 24 and 27 years old, and described the other two victims as personal friends of Fernández.

Fernández announced on social media last week that his girlfriend was expecting the couple's first child.

In an interview with NPR's Rachel Martin on Weekend Edition Sunday, Miami Herald sports reporter Manny Navarro called Fernández one of the best young pitchers of the game.

"He was one of the most exciting pitchers in the game," Navarro said. "Armed with a fastball close to 100 miles an hour, a devastating curve ball that batters couldn't hit. And the thing that people loved so much about José Fernández was how exuberant he was when he pitched, and even when he didn't pitch, he was the kind of teammate who was on edge in his seat in the dugout cheering on his teammates.

"José was the kind of guy who would try and hide from the manager so he wouldn't take him out of the game."

The Marlins drafted Fernández in the first round in 2011, shortly after he graduated from Alonso High. His debut season was in 2013, and that year he played so well he was given Major League Baseball's Rookie of the Year award

Both the Tampa Bay Rays and Tampa Bay Buccaneers held moments of silence before Sunday's games in Fernández's honor. A ceremony honoring Boston Red Sox DH David Ortiz before the Rays-Red Sox game was canceled at Ortiz's request.

"All of baseball is shocked and saddened by the sudden passing of the Marlins pitcher José Fernández," said Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred. "He was one of our game's great young stars who made a dramatic impact on and off the field since his debut in 2013."  

Major League Baseball announced a a league-wide moment of silence would be held before each of Sunday's games in memory of Fernández.

This season, Fernández's pitching statistics were the best of his career. After a 2014 Tommy John surgery to repair his elbow, the ace pitcher came roaring back. In his first start following his surgery, he hit the second home run of his career.

This season, he had 16 wins and 8 losses as a starter. Going into Sunday's game, he had the second most strikeouts of any pitcher in the National League. He was scheduled to start Sunday's game, but the team moved him back to Monday's game against the New York Mets as both teams push for a wildcard spot.

In a 2014 interview posted online, Fernández described a difficult journey from Cuba to the U.S. as a 15-year-old. That year, his grandmother Olga Fernández traveled from Cuba for the first time to see him play for the Marlins.