The Miami Marlins said on Sunday that Jose Fernandez, one of Major League Baseball’s best pitchers, was killed in a boating accident in Miami Beach.
“The Miami Marlins organization is devastated by the tragic loss of José Fernández. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this very difficult time,” the team said in a statement.
Fernandez, 24, was one of three who died in the boating accident, officials said at a Sunday morning news conference.
“He was a pillar to our community,” said Lorenzo Veloz, a spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “He was involved in everything that he could be to give back. It’s a great loss, a tragic loss.”
A United States Coast Guard crew heading out on a law enforcement patrol around 3:30 a.m. found an approximately 32-foot boat overturned with two bodies underneath it and another in the water nearby. The names of the other two individuals, friends of Fernandez’s who were not fellow athletes, were withheld until family could be notified. The dead ranged in age from 24 to 27 years old.
The boat appeared to have been heading south at speed when it hit a rocky jetty and capsized, the officials said. Alcohol and drugs did not immediately appear to have played a role in the accident. Fernandez was not driving the boat, which did not belong to him.
Fernandez’s back story was one from a baseball fairy tale. As a teenager, he was jailed for trying to defect from Cuba. He finally made it on his fourth attempt, at age 15 in 2008, and saved his mother from drowning when she fell overboard on their way to Mexico.
He emerged as a baseball star at Braulio Alonso High School in Tampa, Fla., and was chosen 14th overall by the Marlins in the 2011 draft. He signed for $2 million and was in the majors by 2013. Fernandez had never pitched above Class A, but he made the All-Star team and was named National League Rookie of the Year.
“Six years ago I was trying to come to the United States and I was in jail, thinking about one day playing in the big leagues,” Fernandez said the next winter, as he accepted the award at the baseball writers’ dinner in New York. “I’m here now, next to all these guys.”
Fernandez needed reconstructive elbow surgery the next season, but he returned in 2015 and continued to dominate. He was an All-Star again this season and went 16-8 with a 2.86 earned run average. He led the major leagues in strikeouts per nine innings, with 12.5.
It is not a stretch to say that Fernandez, though very young, was on a Hall of Fame trajectory. He had a 95-mile-per-hour fastball and a mastery of four pitches, and in each of his four seasons, he had an E.R.A. below 3.00. Over all, he was 38-17 with a 2.58 E.R.A. in 76 starts, with 589 strikeouts in just 471 ⅓ innings.
Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred released a statement saying the baseball world was “stunned and devastated.”
“He was one of our game’s great young stars who made a dramatic impact on and off the field since his debut in 2013,” Manfred said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, the Miami Marlins organization and all of the people he touched in his life.”
The Marlins also announced the cancellation of their Sunday game against the Atlanta Braves.