José Fernández — the Miami Marlins pitcher who died in a boating accident early Sunday — announced just days before his tragic accident the news that he was expecting a baby, making the timing of his loss all the more crushing.
The jovial expectant father posted a heartfelt black and white photo on Instagram one week prior to his death showing his girlfriend holding her stomach while in a bikini on the beach. In now-heartbreaking words, the rising athlete said: “I’m so glad you came into my life. I’m ready for where this journey is gonna take us together. #familyfirst.”
According to reports, Fernández was dating Carla Mendoza. The couple had been together since September 2015, when Fernández was photographed embracing Mendoza after he became the first pitcher in the modern era to win his first 17 career home decisions — the designation given to the starting pitcher whose team wins.
Considered one of the Major League Baseball’s most dominant pitchers, Fernandez, 24, died in a boat crash near Miami Beach on Sunday. He was one of three reported fatalities, though a search continues for a possible fourth victim.
The overturned boat was discovered in the early hours of Sunday morning on a jetty near one of the Port of Miami’s major shipping lanes. The 32-foot boat Fernández was on had a “severe impact” with the jetty, according to the Associated Press. The boat was traveling full speed and was demolished upon impact. There was no evidence of alcohol or illegal substances being a factor in the crash.
After news of the accident emerged, the Marlins organization cancelled Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Braves and issued a statement shortly later.
“The Miami Marlins organization is devastated by the tragic lose of José Fernández,” the statement read. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this very difficult time.”
Part of the public’s awe and fascination with Fernández stems from his rough upbringing and the adversities his faced growing up. At the age of 15, Fernández and his mother defected from his native Cuba to the U.S. in 2008 — by way of Mexico — after three previous unsuccessful attempts.
The young aspiring pitcher went on to become a first-round draft selection for the Marlins in 2011. The athlete finally made his Major League Baseball debut in 2013, and played in that year’s MLB All-Star Game. After his rookie season, Fernández won the 2013 National League rookie of the year award, making him the first Cuban-born player to do so in the National League.
Fernandez’s final game was Sept. 20 in Miami against the NL East division champion Washington Nationals. He pitched eight shutout innings, allowing just three hits and striking out 12. It was his ninth game of the season with at least 11 strikeouts. He was due to pitch Monday against the New York Mets.