Jose Fernandez's close friends and family members, including his mother, say September 25th doesn't feel any different for them because every day since the Marlins pitcher's death has been just as painful.
Monday marks one year since the slugger's 32-foot See Vee plowed into a jetty in South Florida, killing him and two others. Friends and family visited the site Sunday to remember the 24-year-old as well as Emilio Jesus Macias, 27, and Eduardo Rivero, 25.
Among the many tearful faces, there was only one innocent smile: that of his 7-month-old daughter, Penelope.
“She’s exactly like him: her smile, her expressions,” said Iliana de la Cruz, a family friend. “He always said he wanted his daughter to have his mother’s blue eyes, and she has his blue eyes.”
Hernandez's girlfriend, Maria Arias, was pregnant when he was killed. She gave birth to Penelope five months after his death.
“Even though he can’t see her, I know that wherever he is, he is watching over her and protecting her,” said Maritza Gomez-Fernandez, Fernandez’s mother.
It has been a painful year for those who knew the Marlins pitcher and icon for the Cuban-American community. He was only 24-years-old when his highly-promising baseball career ended in a violent boat crash.
His legacy remains a topic of debate ever since investigators revealed that Fernandez had alcohol and cocaine in his system when the boat he was operating boat struck a jetty at 65 mph, killing all three passengers on board.
On Sunday, Fernandez’s loved ones chose to remember him as a kind soul who put his family above all else. It’s a legacy they will transmit to the baby girl he never met.
“Anything she needs to know, I will be there to hell her,” said Gomez-Fernandez, “because I am the best person to tell her father’s story.”
“He instilled in all of us, his fans, his friends, his family, joy, comfort and he did something to us, he changed our lives forever,” de la Cruz said.
The family plans to return to Government Cut on Monday morning, but will spend the rest of the day mourning privately.