MIAMI (WSVN) - After a touching final tribute to fallen Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, the mourning continues, Friday, at Marlins Park.
Fans continued paying appreciation and showing love to Fernandez by adding to the large memorial display at Marlins Park.
It was a packed house at St. Brendan Catholic Church, Thursday, as relatives, friends and the Miami Marlins family paid their respects to Jose Fernandez during a private funeral mass.
Early Thursday morning, the church began preparing in anticipation of the mass.
At around noon, Fernandez’s mother, grandmother and other family members were seen outside of his grandmother’s home before heading to St. Brendan for the funeral mass. By 12:30, close relatives and friends started to arrive in groups.
Some close relatives arrived in limousines before heading inside. At around 1 p.m., the private funeral mass began.
Along with close family and friends in attendance were nearly 200 Miami Marlins personnel, who arrived by the bus load. Also in attendance were Mr. Marlin himself, Jeff Conine, singer Marc Anthony, Hall of Famer Tony Perez and Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz.
Father Jose Alvarez, who is the Marlins Chaplain, as well as a priest at Our Lady of the Lakes in Miami Lakes, orated Thursday’s funeral mass.
“Most of what has been said over the last few days has been about the great person that he is,” Alvarez said. “Todo lo grande, no?”
Several of Fernandez’s teammates and partners spoke at the mass, including Miami Marlins Owner Jeffrey Loria, who gave Fernandez’s Marlins jersey to Fernandez’s grandmother before the processional began at St. Brendan, Wednesday. He is responsible for bringing Fernandez’s grandmother from Cuba to the United States.
At one point during the mass, Loria broke down in tears. “Well, we weren’t supposed to be here today,” said Loria. “As you all know, we tragically lost a giant who was one of the bright lights of our Marlins organization, the City of Miami and for Cuban people everywhere.”
Also speaking was Fernandez’s agent, Scott Boras, who has been emotional since he arrived to Miami, Monday. During interviews, Boras has had trouble speaking, as he was overcome with emotion and tears.
During his eulogy he fought back tears as he praised Fernandez. “Oh, he had unbelievable ability – that smile opened the door to him. A beacon of light,” he said, as he choked up. “His two most passionate places were on the water and on the mound. Both represented his rights and freedom he most coveted. Ironically, the waters that brought Jose to us are the same waters that took him to a new freedom… This guy called me elated, ‘Soy libre, como usted!’ He screamed on the phone. ‘Free like you.’ I said, ‘No you’re different. You’re so different. I was born to the privilege of this great country. You had to fight and risk your life to get here.'”
Boras has spent a lot of time with Fernandez’s grandmother and mother since his passing. He said that Jose told him once, his proudest moment was being able to buy his mother a house.
Two Miami Marlins players were invited to speak, third baseman Martin Prado and Outfielder Marcell Ozuna. Wednesday night, Prado hit a home run and was met with an embrace from Ozuna on the field.
Both Prado and Ozuna, as well as several other Marlins baseball players, were invited to go out on the boat with Fernandez on that tragic Saturday night that ended in a fatal crash, off Miami Beach, that took Fernandez’s life as well as the lives of two of his friends.
The emotional and somber mass concluded at around 3:35 p.m., with the singing of “God Bless America.” Soon after, the attendees exited St. Brendan, where many were seen offering their condolences to one another and embracing as they walked side by side to their cars parked nearby.
Family and friends went to a private burial following the service.
Meanwhile, the Marlins left for their flight to Washington, D.C., where they’ll play their final three games of the season Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Before leaving, Loria spoke again about Fernandez’s impact.
“Emptied out, emptied out with emotion. A spectacular star, terrific young man. I just loved him. All I can tell you is I loved him, and everybody who came in touch with him loved him. Once in a lifetime, once in a lifetime.”
Hall of Famer Andre Dawson, former Marlins managers Dan Jennings and Jack McKeon, and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred were also in attendance, along with singer-songwriter Marc Anthony.
“It’s just a superior home going and you also learn a lot about Jose that you didn’t know. A lot of what you knew, but it’s a wonderful home going,” Dawson said. “That spirit he had, how it was contagious, infectious. He loved everybody, and it was pretty evident today. He made an impact on a country, on several countries, on people all around the world. Just to know him for that brief time that I knew him, he made an impact on me. He was just one of those individuals that he grew on you. You loved him, and he was just taken too soon.”
Washington Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez, a Miami native and friend of Jose’s, was also in attendance.
On Wednesday, hundreds of fans visited St. Brendan Catholic Church for a public viewing, which concluded just before midnight. Fans lined the street in front of the church to say goodbye to their star pitcher who was taken away too soon.
Inside the church, fans filed past a closed casket adorned by flower arrangements in the shapes of the U.S. and Cuban flags, with a large family photo of Fernandez off to one side.
Fans left behind a memorial on the steps of the church for the family, including young fans whose parents brought them along.
The Marlins finish their regular season in Washington against the Nationals, a series that begins Friday evening.
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