Jose Fernandez was a star on the mound, and admired by those lucky enough to share the field with him.
"He dominated, but he had respect for everybody and respect for the game. But if you tried his dominance, you know, he showed it. That's what I think made him such an exciting player to watch," said former Alonso High School teammate Nathan Hahn.
Fernandez earned the nickname "The Defector" during his time with the Miami Marlins. That title is one familiar to many in Tampa Bay. Mario Quevedo got to know a young Jose Fernandez, just as he was about to make his debut in the big leagues. And as a fellow Cubano, Quevedo developed a deep admiration for the ball player, since both had fled from their home country.
"As much as he was a great ball player, as much as he was a great pitched, he was a great human being. And for that, as a Cuban American, I feel very proud," said Quevedo.
Quevedo met Fernandez through a mutual friend and learned Jose really wanted to invest himself in Miami's Cuban and Latino community. So Quevedo helped organize a trip to Miami, allowing the young star athlete to meet with veterans from the Bay of Pigs invasion and dozens of former Cuban political prisoners.
"I remember so clearly what he said. 'I was one of you. I know. I struggled to be free,'" said Quevedo.
Fernandez tried to make it to AMerican three times, and each time he failed, he was sent to prison. The last time he boarded a boat to Miami, he even saved his mother from drowning. Quevedo says Fernandez never took for granted the opportunities he was given to live out his American dream.
"He was fully aware of the concept of freedom, and the human being needs freedom. And he understood what freedom meant," Quevedo said.
And while his life was cut short, Quevedo believes Jose Fernandez leaves an incredible legacy and reminder to all of us to value our freedom.
Right now, there's no indication on when funeral services will be held for Jose Fernandez. Friends and former teammates at Alonso High School are hoping to hold a vigil in his memory there, later this week.