A View from Studio 3: Touching moment for top rookie
Fernandez's amazing journey hits heartfelt high note on night of award announcement
This week, my view is from the General Managers meetings in Orlando, Fla. And Monday evening, I had the privledge of having a front-row seat for the National League Rookie of the Year announcement. Standing a few feet away from Jose Fernandez, I witnessed perhaps the most memorable non-game moment ever.
A few hundred yards from the hustle and bustle of the hotel lobby, where GMs mixed with media, sat one of the best pitchers in the world. In a chair. In front of a camera. Under the hot television lights. Fernandez was waiting to go on MLB Network for a live interview prior to the Rookie of the Year announcements. Standing a few feet away were about a dozen people, including his agent, a few reporters and his mother, grandmother and uncle.
Just a few days prior, his grandmother Olga arrived in Florida from Cuba. A surprise visit from the country in which Fernandez was born, raised and later defected. Overwhelmed by her arrival, Fernandez was quoted as saying that his grandmother was "the love of my life ... my everything."
Fernandez described how he felt when he saw his grandmother: "I was in shock. I was sitting in my chair, and I couldn't move. I couldn't do anything."
It was another memorable event in the young and remarkable life of the 21-year-old righty.
He was moments away from yet another one.
As a teenager, he defected from Cuba with his mother and sister. After a few failed attempts that landed him in jail, they succeeded in their search for a better life.
Fernandez has been through more in two decades than most people could experience in two lifetimes.
Back to Monday night. Fernandez is sitting in a different chair. But again, he appears unable to move -- not out of shock but because he's tethered to a seat with microphone and earpiece wires.
He appears to be more stressed out than if he were facing a no-outs bases-loaded jam.
Olga told me that while Jose was waiting for the announcement, she asked him if he was nervous. He just nodded his head, "Yes."
So how is it possible that this young man, who saved his mother's life when she fell overboard during an attempt to defect, could be visibly nervous leading up to an award announcement?
That's how he's wired. He's passionate, dedicated, emotional and focused.
Marlins general manager Mike Hill said that with Fernandez, what you see is what you get.
"His passion for the game -- it's infectious," Hill said. "What you saw [this season] is a young man who genuinely loves the game of baseball."
Looking more relieved than excited after the big announcement, Fernandez said, "These last three days have been crazy. I've been waiting for this, barely sleeping, and I'm really excited about today, and it's something I'm pretty happy about."
His mother told me, "Ever since he was a young child he set goals and achieved those goals, and this year he set a goal to be in the big leagues and be the best he could be, and he's achieved that."
In a span of about 15 minutes, you could feel the range of emotions on display in this hotel lobby. The stress, anxiety, relief, joy and love.
It was real.
If that wasn't enough, the group hug with his mother and grandmother moments after the long-awaited announcement was something out of a movie.
It too, was real.
Fernandez seemed on the verge of being overcome by emotion -- perhaps in need of a good cry.
"Normally, I'm not a crier," Fernandez said. "I really need to go to the beach and sit down and get everything in. This year, I learned everything that I could and for sure had a lot of fun. I'm enjoying this a lot."
And I enjoyed watching this story unfold as much as any I can recall.
Matt Yallof is the co-host of The Rundown on MLB Network from 2-4 p.m. ET. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.