I don’t write about sports nearly as much as I used to when I started blogging here (over 6 years ago!), but the truth is, I have a whole section of my closet devoted to sports jerseys. Soccer jerseys, football jerseys, baseball jerseys — even a hockey jersey sneaked in there! Sports has been one of my “things” since I can remember. I couldn’t even pinpoint why — it’s part of who I am, and part of my family. I love sports because of my competitive nature, my love of tradition and history, my hometown, my loyalty. I love the stories and its heroes.
Sometimes, we lose our heroes. That part hurts.
We lose our heroes in different ways. Sometimes it’s a breakup, a mutual one at that. One you know is the best decision for everyone’s future — the franchise and the star athlete. That hardly makes it any easier. I was 12 when the Miami Heat drafted Dwyane Wade, nearly 26 when he left for his own hometown team. 13 years, 3 championships. It was magic, and I thought it was going to last forever. It’s so rare and so special to see you favorite player spend their entire career with your team, and I thought it was in the cards for us. Regardless, Miami will welcome Wade because he represented the city with fire.
Sometimes we lose our heroes, and it’s a damn tragedy. That’s what Miami is going through last week after we lost Jose Fernandez, a “100 mph human.” His story is now legend, an origin story fit for a superhero. Here was a young man who found freedom through the sea — but the sea took that freedom away. After three unsuccessful attempts to flee Cuba, he was jailed — as just a teenager. On his fourth, and ultimately successful, trip to the U.S., he saved his own mother from drowning. Once he became a starting pitcher for the Miami Marlins, his grandmother — still on the island — would climb her roof to catch a radio signal of his games.
At this point, much has been written about Jose — his journey, and what he meant to the Cuban community. As for me? I just had fun watching him play for my hometown team. I saw Jose pitch in Philadelphia last summer, and I watched him warmup in the bullpen. He ended up tossing me his baseball, and I was
After countless baseball games, I had never caught a foul ball or home run ball, so this was a cool moment. When I went to another Marlins-Phillies game this summer, the starting pitcher did not throw anyone a baseball. It made me appreciate Jose even more. He had a big heart, played baseball with the joy of a Little Leaguer, and shared that energy. That’s awesome, and so rare these days. I definitely regret not getting my baseball signed that summer night.
I’ll treasure that brief moment I had with a superstar. I felt like a little kid again! The reality is, though, I’m growing up — it’s only a matter of time before my favorite athletes will be younger than me. And part of growing up is also letting go of your heroes. People move on and you realize that even the brightest stars are human and flawed. That doesn’t mean you can’t cry about it. There is crying in baseball, and that’s okay.
What I’m trying to say is, thanks, Jose for being a hero to kids everywhere, and being the reason we love sports.