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Teammates and managers remembered José Fernéndez's love of baseball at an emotional press conference

By Stephanie Petit
Updated October 04, 2016 07:40 PM
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Credit: Wilfredo Lee/AP

The Miami Marlins held a press conference on Sunday in response to José Fernéndez ‘s death in a boating accident that also killed two others.

The teammates and managers of the 24-year-old All-Star pitcher shed tears as they shared memories and held Fernéndez’s number 16 jersey on a hanger.

President David Samson spoke first, reading a statement from Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria.

“It is with the deepest sorrow that I, together with my family and the entire Marlins organization, mourn the tragic loss of José. Sadly, the brightest lights are often the ones that extinguish the fastest,” Samson read. “José left us far too soon, but his memory will endure in all of us. At this difficult time, our prayers are with his mother, grandmother, family and friends.”

Samson went on to explain how he came to learn of Fernéndez’s passing, receiving a phone call asking to confirm the athlete’s address to confirm he was a victim in the boating accident off the coast of Miami early Sunday morning.

“As you see around you, no words to describe how this organization feels,” Samson said as players and managers wiped away tears. “José was someone who we’ve known since he was a drafted young man. When you talk about a tragedy like this, there are no words that come to mind, there’s no playbook, there’s no words of consolation.”

Marlins manager Don Mattingly had to pause multiple times as he choked back tears and his voice shook with emotion as he spoke.

“When I think about José, I’ll be thinking about that little kid,” he said. “When I think of José, I see such a little boy, the way he played. There’s just joy with him when he played, and when he pitched. And I think that’s what the guys will say, too.”

He continued, “As mad he would make you with some of the stuff he would do, you just see that little kid. When you watch kids play Little League, that’s the joy that José played with and the passion that he felt about playing. That’s what I think about.”

Marlins third baseman Martin Prado shared that he was excited to join the team in part due to Fernéndez.

“He didn’t care who he aced, who we were playing,” Prado said. “One of the guys told a story today that he told one of this teammates that the last game that he pitched against the Nationals was the best game he ever pitched. And now he’s gone and…it’s hard.”

He added, “We humans, we feel and he made an impact on every single person on the is team in different ways. We’re going to play games and be professional about it, but deep in our hearts there’s a lot of pain. Some way we’ve got to overcome that, but right now it’s something, it’s hard to explain.”

Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Braves was cancelled, but Samson said the team would return to the field Monday.

“There will be a game tomorrow,” he said. “When the team got together, one of the first things talked about was the way José played and the way he played and the way he was on the field. If José were here, he would be saying we’re going to get out on the field tomorrow and we’re going to play…for the people who wish they could play the game but can’t.”

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, an overturned boat that had crashed into a jetty was discovered at approximately 3:30 a.m. Sunday during law enforcement patrol. Fernéndez was confirmed as one of the three deceased found.

The standout baseball pitcher announced recently that he was expecting a baby with his girlfriend, identified by Larry Brown Sports as Carla Mendoza.

“I’m so glad you came into my life,” Fernéndez captioned a photo of his girlfriend holding her baby bump on the beach. “I’m ready for where this journey is gonna take us together.”

Fernéndez was named the National League Rookie of the Year in 2013, also making the All-Star team during his first season. After missing the majority of the 2014 season due to Tommy John surgery, he was named an All-Star for a second time this year.

Reporting by TINA JOHNSON