Jose Fernandez’s grieving girlfriend is speaking out for the first time since the birth of their daughter – almost five months to the day since the Miami Marlins pitcher’s tragic death in a boating accident.
Maria Arias tells PEOPLE that she and baby Penelope, who was born last Friday, are “both healthy and doing well” and that the newborn has “brought a lot of light and joy to our lives.”
Arias, who was living with Jose at the time of his death, says Penelope’s birth, “has not taken any of the pain away of course, because that’s always going to remain, but she’s definitely brightened up our lives. A lot of people were anticipating her arrival, because at the end of the day, it’s a little piece of him that he left behind for us.”
Fernandez died Sept. 25 after a boat he was riding in with two friends collided with a coastal barrier on Miami Beach.
In August, Fernandez looked overjoyed when he cut into a gender reveal cake at a family dinner and discovered he was having a girl. Arias’ father shared the video on Facebook.
Scott Boras, Fernandez’s agent, said during the pitcher’s funeral that the ace named her Penelope before his death, and was already excited to introduce her to the game he loved.
“When he found out he was going to be a father he wanted to know: ‘Am I going to be a good father?’ and I told him, ‘You’re going to be a great father, because you’re going to treat your child like your mother treated you. And you’ll know exactly what to do.’ The next day he bought a glove and put Penelope on it for his unborn daughter,” Boras said at the funeral.
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According to Sports Illustrated, Fernandez saved his mother from drowning when the family defected from Cuba when he was a teenager.
Arias has remained very close with the Fernandez family, who are requesting privacy.