Mets fans first to experience Jose Fernandez, who offered lasting excitement
By Richard Heaton
Just over three years ago I walked into Citi Field. It was Aaron Laffey‘s Mets debut so I decided to head to the bullpen area to watch him warm up. Next to him, in the visiting team’s bullpen, was a rookie preparing for his MLB debut. His name was Jose Fernandez.
At the time, I had never heard of him. He never pitched above Single A before then but wanted to prove he belonged in the majors. That’s what he did, skipping two levels and not slowing down the success he had with Jupiter and Greensboro.
The Mets won that day, but only after Fernandez made a name for himself and showed us that he was something special. He retired the first 10 Mets batters he faced, with five Strikeouts. He worked quickly, needing only 33 pitches to get through the first three innings. After that, he ran into trouble and gave up one run on three hits over five innings.
Some Mets fans left the ballpark as early as the second inning, after seeing Fernandez strike out Ike Davis, Mike Baxter, and Lucas Duda on 15 pitches. These fans could tell that Jose was not a pitcher to mess with and that the Mets would have trouble against him. Other fans began cheering for him after entering the fourth inning with the perfect game intact.
Before being called up, Fernandez had a 1.75 ERA in 2012, only losing one out of 15 decisions. While he had some great stats, he wasn’t too highly regarded before making his debut. At the conclusion of the 2012 season, MLB Prospect Watch ranked him at number 22 with an estimated 2015 debut.
Things worked out in his favor, as near the end of March, injuries hit
, and Fernandez got the call. Things might not have worked out for him the same way had his first few starts been poor, but they were not.
After his exciting debut at Citi Field, he went on to throw six scoreless innings in his home debut against the Phillies and his career took off.
Mets fans at his debut might not have cared about him or even known who he was. As his career progressed, though, they could look back at that game and realize that they witnessed history.
Though Jose was a Marlins player, Queens was where some of his big moments took place. During his next start at Citi Field on June 8, he had a nearly identical pitching line. He matched the lone run on three hits while pitching six innings. Neither he nor Matt Harvey got the decision that day as the teams went on to play 20 innings.
In his career at Citi Field, Jose recorded a 1.23 ERA with zero decisions in four games. He had a better ERA in only one other stadium, Kauffman Stadium, where he pitched only one game. It was always exciting to see him pitch here, or anywhere for that matter, because of what he had evolved into these past few years.
It wasn’t just on the field where Jose brought excitement. He was the kind of guy that with his kind of passion could make anything exciting.
It didn’t matter if you were a fan of a rival team, or didn’t even like baseball to begin with. If somebody knew him, what he had done, and the passion he put out, it became hard to dislike him.
Jake Kostik, a fan of the Boston Red Sox knew what Jose was all about, both on and off the field.
"“Jose Fernandez is a player that everyone will miss, regardless of what team you root for. As a human being, he was excellent, and his work shows this. He worked with kids all the time, and treasured every moment of his time on earth. He loved baseball more than anything else, and his enthusiasm was contagious. Without him around, baseball suffers greatly in many ways. Without him around, humanity itself suffers.”"
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Jose Fernandez was a great player and all around great man. If you were able to see him at a game, such as at his debut, whether it was as a Marlin fan or for the opposing team, you were always in for a treat.
He had not even played in the majors for four years and was only 24 years old, but had a lifetime worth of achievements and accomplishments, and has left all baseball and sports fans with some of the best memories.