Miami Says Final Farewell to Pitcher Jose Fernandez | NBC Bay Area
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Miami Says Final Farewell to Pitcher Jose Fernandez

Marlins players surrounded the hearse, then walked it down the street as fans chanted "Jose, Jose!"



    NBC 6, Getty Images

    The Miami community bid a final farewell to Miami Marlins star pitcher Jose Fernandez with a public memorial on Wednesday.

    A funeral procession began at Marlins Park and traveled to Ermita de la Caridad in Miami for a blessing, before heading to Saint Brendan's Catholic Church for a public viewing.

    Hundreds of fans gathered on the West Plaza of Marlins Park as the hearse carrying the body of Fernandez arrived around 2 p.m.

    Emotional Scenes at Jose Fernandez Funeral ProcessionEmotional Scenes at Jose Fernandez Funeral Procession

    Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, manager Don Mattingly, hitting coach Barry Bonds and the team's players, including Marcel Ozuna and Giancarlo Stanton, wore white T-shirts emblazoned with Fernandez's image and the letters "RIP."

    Marlins players surrounded the hearse, then walked it down the street as fans chanted "Jose, Jose!"

    "It was amazing, amazing, exactly what I expected it to be. They're all hurting too, so they came to show their respects in their own way," Stanton said of the fans after the event. "He touched people man. He was something special, it was a personality that can't be replaced."

    Jose Portuondo, 55, came to the event with his dog, Sophie. He said Fernandez, 24, was a shining example for Cubans who often risk their lives at sea to come to the U.S. seeking freedom. Fernandez defected from the communist island at age 15.

    "His is the story of many in South Florida. He brings it home," said Portuondo, who drives a city trolley bus. "Being here, the sadness is just thick in the air."

    Junko Sasaki, 40, who is Japanese but spends a lot of time in South Florida, brought an offering of fruit, rice and water to a makeshift memorial to Fernandez that has sprouted up outside the ballpark. She said it was a traditional Japanese way of ensuring the honored dead have what they need in the afterlife.

    "It is a Japanese custom. Every day he can eat," she said, adding that Fernandez once tossed her a baseball from the field at a game.

    "He meant everything, he was the best pitcher I knew, he would always bring joy to life," fan Kelsi Figueroa said. "Whenever he would pitch I would always tell my mom to let me go. It's just so sad."

    The procession left Marlins Park at 2:16 p.m. and stopped at Ermita de la Caridad shrine at 3609 South Miami Avenue before heading to St. Brendan's Catholic Church at 8725 Southwest 32nd Street for a public viewing. The public viewing will be held from 5 p.m. until 11 p.m.

    At Ermita de la Caridad, "Ave Maria" played as a priest met with Fernandez's family and said a blessing on the steps of the church. The shrine is a sacred place for Cubans in South Florida. The Virgin de la Caridad del Cobre, or Our Lady of Charity, is the patron saint of Cuba, where Fernandez was born.

    "Here is important because many people come here to say the first hello to this country but also many come here to say the last goodbye," Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado said at Ermita de la Caridad.

    A private funeral for Fernandez will be held Thursday.

    In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for charitable contributions to be made to the JDF16 Foundation.

    Fernandez, 24, died early Sunday when his 32-foot boat slammed into a jetty off Miami Beach, investigators say. Two friends aboard the boat, 27-year-old Emilio Jesus Macias and 25-year-old Eduardo Rivero were also killed.

    The cause of the crash remains under investigation.