ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — First pitch was still 35 minutes away, but Hanley Ramirez was already in the dugout Tropicana Field on Sunday, sitting alone with his head down.
Like many other Red Sox players, the death of Miami Marlins righthander Jose Fernandez in a boating accident was devastating for the Red Sox first baseman.
Ramirez played much his career in Miami, still lives in the area and knew the 24-year-old Fernandez. He hugged many of his teammates before the game started and wrote Hernandez’s No. 16 in the dirt behind the plate before his first at-bat.
“Can’t be true. CANNOT be true!” Ramirez wrote on Twitter. “My heart is with Jose’s and the other victims’ families, and my cherished Marlins family. My deepest condolences. This is heartbreaking.”
Red Sox manager John Farrell moved through the clubhouse early in the morning, consoling players and offering a few words here and there.
“This is their peer. This is their opponent. This is a guy they can clearly identify with,” Farrell said. “When somebody is taken so quickly, it’s a tragic moment. Our condolences go out to all directly involved.”
David Ortiz was stunned. At the All-Star Game in July, Ortiz and Fernandez had a fun at-bat in the second inning, the Miami ace throwing him a slider after jokingly promising the day before to feed Ortiz some batting-practice fastballs so he could hit a home run.
When Ortiz drew a walk, he pointed out at Fernandez and both laughed. Fernandez later asked Ortiz to sign a jersey for him. Ortiz, he said, was his favorite player.
“When I heard the news this morning I have not been able to go back to normal. You can never be prepared to hear news like that, it makes a major impact on you,” Ortiz said on MLB Network.
“When I watched him pitch I said, ‘Wow this is special.’ In his career he made such an impact on all of us. When he was pitching I couldn’t wait to see the highlights.”
Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez, who earlier this season remarked that Fernandez would be perfect for the Red Sox, was similarly affected.
“I feel extremely sad,” Martinez said on MLB Network. “I saw a better talent than I was lose his life this tragic morning.”
In the Red Sox clubhouse, the usual music was turned off and the players and coaches clustered around televisions to see reports about the accident.
“A lot of guys in here knew him,” infielder Deven Marrero said. “A bunch of us are live around Miami and you’d see him around. It’s a tough day.”
Out of respect for Fernandez, Ortiz asked the Rays to cancel their on-field ceremony to honor him on his upcoming retirement.
Instead, Rays players Evan Longoria and Chris Archer met with Ortiz before the game and presented him with a custom oil painting of his 500th home run at Tropicana Field last season and 34 handmade cigars.
The team also made $5,000 contributions in Ortiz’s name to the Miracle league of St. Petersburg and the University of South Florida Latino Scholars Program.
Can't be true. CANNOT be true!— Hanley Ramirez ⚾️ (@HanleyRamirez) September 25, 2016
My heart is with Jose's and the other victims' families, and my cherished Marlins family. My deepest condolences. This is heartbreaking— Hanley Ramirez ⚾️ (@HanleyRamirez) September 25, 2016
Please pray for Fernandez's family today..absolutely sickening news. Worst news to wake up to— Travis Shaw (@travis_shaw21) September 25, 2016
My gosh. Just sick in my stomach hearing about Jose Fernandez. Praying for his family, friends, and teammates...— Brad Ziegler (@BradZiegler) September 25, 2016
Praying for the Fernandez family. Kills my heart hearing this news. God bless the Fernandez family!— robbie ross (@Ross_108) September 25, 2016
The outpouring of grief was league-wide.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Fernandez family and the entire Marlins organization during this difficult time— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) September 25, 2016
I can't believe this, RIP Jose Fernandez my condolences to his family. Great Player and Great Person.— Ivan Nova (@IvanNova47) September 25, 2016
Stunned over the tragic news about Jose. My thoughts and prayers are with his friends and family.— Matt Harvey (@MattHarvey33) September 25, 2016
The Baltimore Orioles send our heartfelt condolences to the family of José Fernández and the entire Marlins organization.— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) September 25, 2016
Thoughts and prayers go out to Jose Fernandez, and his family. So shocking and saddening. Hurting with my friends from the Marlins today.— Mark Canha (@outtadapakmark) September 25, 2016
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RIP my brother... I am absolutely heartbroken, I don't think I ever saw you, in the years we trained together or played together, without that smile. I will forever miss the days we would convince Orlando (our pitching coach) that it was too cold outside to train for baseball so we would go play soccer and then chop down trees. We would race to see who could get their tree down first. The days were there we no cameras, money, or fame and we would work our ass off for hours a day while talking about what it would be like IF one day, just MAYBE we both made it to the @mlb and what it could be like. I will forever miss beating you at ping pong in your moms garage and the way you lived life and how you loved those important to you....Those memories will never fade and one day I will see you again, I truly believe that, then we can talk all about everything we didn't get the chance to. #RIPJose #JDF16