Today has been full of tributes to Jose Fernandez. Miami’s 24-year-old ace died in a boat accident early on Sunday morning, and people all across the world of sports have tried their best to sum up their feelings on the tragedy. Additionally, members of the Marlins organization came together for an emotional press conference.
One person who struggled to hold back tears while discussing Fernandez was Eduardo Perez. The ESPN analyst and former major leaguer knew Fernandez – the two became close when Perez was Miami’s hitting coach in 2011 and 2012 prior to Fernandez’s call up to the majors – and spent nearly 10 minutes pouring his heart out on live television.
Like many, Perez talked about how great Fernandez was at baseball, mentioning that Fernandez wanted to have fun above everything else, before getting to the far more important thing: he was an outstanding human being. Perez talked about how Fernandez saved his mother from drowning when he was a teenager before he came to the United States, and pointed out some of the smaller things that he did that showed the caliber of person he was and the passion with which he did everything.
Perez also discussed Fernandez’s impact in the Latino community, said that the hardest part of Fernandez’s passing was telling his father, and that the stud righthander was like a grandson to Perez’s dad.
“This is a kid that would go and play dominoes at my parents’ house,” Perez said. “Very tight-knit, my always made sure that everyone was taken care of.”
Additionally, Perez talked about how Fernandez was beloved in Miami, noting that television ratings and attendance at Marlins games would rise whenever he was on the mound. But the most powerful part came at the end, when Perez talked about how he wanted people to remember Fernandez.
“As a player first, he found a way to get people in the stands in Miami,” Perez said. “And as a person? Pura vida. Pure life. Pure life.”