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A night of wrenching emotion as Miami Marlins players pay tribute to team-mate Jose Fernandez

The 24-year-old lost his life in a boating accident on Sunday.

Martin Prado is consoled by Miami Marlins team manager Don Mattingly.
Martin Prado is consoled by Miami Marlins team manager Don Mattingly.
Image: Lynne Sladky

MIAMI MARLINS PLAYERS wearing No. 16 jerseys in honour of Jose Fernandez paid a tearful tribute to their fallen team-mate last night, a day after the star pitcher was killed in a boating accident.

A night of wrenching emotion saw several of the Cuban-born player’s team-mates choke back tears as they gathered on the pitcher’s mound at Marlins Park ahead of their game against the New York Mets.

Many players touched a large “16″ which had been painted on the mound in tribute to the 24-year-old pitching ace, before hanging their heads in a moment of silence.

Tributes followed throughout the game, eventually won 7-3 by the Marlins, with Dee Gordon breaking down in sobs after hitting his first home run of the season, before being embraced by team-mates.

Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria said earlier Monday that the club would permanently retire Fernandez’s “16″ jersey number.

“Nobody’s going to wear it. I can tell you that now, nobody will wear that number again,” Loria told the Sun-Sentinel newspaper.

Marlins coach Don Mattingly said the shattered organization were “not trying to do anything other than just get through the day.”

Mets Marlins Baseball Source: Lynne Sladky

Mets Marlins Baseball Source: Lynne Sladky

“We’re just handling it the best we can, whatever way that is, for each guy,” said Mattingly shortly before Monday’s game.

“We have a love for Jose, the way he played, his passion for the game, and his energy for it. And I think our guys want to honor that, and what we’ve learned from him and that joy that he played with.”

Marlins president David Samson said Fernandez, a Cuban refugee who became a US citizen and achieved his dream of starring for a team in Miami, had been a role model beyond baseball.

“This was a loss not just in the baseball world, but a loss in the community,” Samson said.

“Jose Fernandez represented the possibility of freedom and the possibility of what America can mean to the Cuban people.”

Fans created a makeshift memorial for the pitcher at the Florida baseball stadium, leaving flowers and handwritten notes in his honor.

The tributes come a day after Fernandez’s body was found, along with two deceased boating companions, in an overturned vessel off Miami Beach.

The Marlins canceled Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Braves as his teammates absorbed the shock of his loss.

Authorities said Fernandez and the other two victims were killed when the 32-foot (10-meter) vessel crashed into a jetty. The Coast Guard discovered the overturned boat around 3.30am local time on Sunday.

Mets Marlins Baseball Source: Lynne Sladky

Rays White Sox Baseball Source: Paul Beaty

Officials said Fernandez was killed as a result of the impact. A Coast Guard spokesman told AFP on Monday the other two victims have been identified as Emilio Macias, 27, and Eduardo Rivero, 25.

“We are awaiting toxicology results,” spokesman Darren Caprara said, adding that it can “take several days or can take up to several months,” for the accident investigation to be completed.

The investigation is being led by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Fernandez was enjoying his best major league season, posting a 16-8 record with a 2.86 earned run average.

The hard-throwing right-hander set a club record with 253 strikeouts this season, and his 12.49 strikeouts per nine innings led the majors.

He came to the United States from Cuba at age 15, after three failed attempts.

At 20, he broke into the major leagues and was National League Rookie of the Year in 2013.

Fernandez’s final start last Tuesday was one of the best of the two-time All-Star’s career.

He tossed a season-high eight innings and struck out 12 in a 1-0 shutout win over the Washington Nationals.

© – AFP, 2016

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