Rubio praises Marlins pitcher José Fernández on Senate floor


Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Tuesday paid tribute to José Fernández, a 24-year-old star pitcher for the Miami Marlins who died in a boating accident this weekend.

“I never met José Fernandez, and yet I feel like I knew him. And that’s how millions of people feel,” Rubio said, speaking from the Senate floor. “They never met him, but they feel like they know him. They feel like they know him because of his story.”

{mosads}Fernández and two of his friends, Emilio Macias and Eduardo Rivero, were killed early Sunday morning in a boating accident. Rubio said Fernández is all anyone in Miami has talked about for the past 24 hours and that his story was familiar to Cuban-Americans like himself.

“It is, at the end, our story, as Cuban-Americans, as Americans,” said the Florida senator, who is up for reelection.

Rubio shared the story of the pitcher’s perilous journey from the island to the U.S. Fernández emigrated from Cuba at the age of 15. The future baseball star tried to leave Cuba four times, and at one point was jailed.

On that fourth attempt, Fernández took a more dangerous route through Mexico. During that journey, the small boat he was traveling in faced treacherous conditions and waves he later described as “stupid big.”

When someone fell overboard, Fernández did not hesitate to jump in after them. He did not realize until later the person he rescued was his mother.

Rubio lauded the incident as a portrait of the young man’s selfless character.

“Before America ever met José Fernández, before his fastball earned him millions of dollars and countless fans, in the middle of the night, in rough seas and against all odds, at just 15 years of age, this [is what this] young man, José Fernández, was revealing himself to be,” he said.

Rubio said young Fernández faced the same struggles as other immigrants but survived “the toughest period of his life” and came into his own.

When Fernández was a young high school prospect from the Tampa area, he caught the eyes of numerous scouts.

“What set him apart was how he was rated when it came to his poise and aggressiveness. ‘Exudes confidence.’ No-fear approach. This was not cockiness or arrogance,” said Rubio.

“It was the kind of peaceful self-assurance that comes from a kid who had known life and death, who had known freedom and captivity, and who had lived more life in 19 years than a kid his age should have to.”

Last year, Fernández became an American citizen, which he called his “most important accomplishment.”

“It is an honor to be a part of this country, and I respect it so much,” Fernández had said.

Rubio concluded his tribute, saying Fernández was more than a baseball player. 

“José’s story was our story. Because he reminds so many in my community of someone they know, of a brother or of a son, of a nephew. José represented not just all of us who were fortunate to live our own American dream; he represents countless others who never made it,” Rubio said.

Tags Marco Rubio

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