One word appeared countless times in this weekend's tributes to Miami Marlins pitcher José Fernández — joy.
The 24-year-old died early Sunday in a boating accident, along with two other men. He leaves behind a passionate, positive legacy, as well as an inspiring personal story.
Fernández grew up playing baseball in Santa Clara, Cuba. He tried on several occasions to flee the country and served prison time for his attempted defection. On the fourth try, at age 15, he made it to Mexico and eventually Tampa. During the journey, he saved his mother from drowning.
Fernández was drafted by the Marlins out of high school in 2011 and became an American citizen in 2015. USA Today columnist Bob Nightengale describes him as the "embodiment of [the] American dream."
In addition to his courage and determination, Fernández is remembered for his fun-loving enthusiasm for the game. During a press conference Sunday, Marlins manager Don Mattingly compared watching him play to watching "kids play Little League."
"That's the joy that José played with," he said through tears.
After news of his death broke, social media was flooded with memories of the pitcher's positive attitude, whether he was on the mound or in the dugout.
As Jacob deGrom of the Mets said, "When he was in the dugout, you'd look over there and he'd be rooting on his team more than anybody you'd probably ever seen."