SHANNON DRAYER

Steve Cishek, Mariners express shock over news of the death of Marlins ace José Fernández

Sep 25, 2016, 10:58 AM | Updated: 11:25 am
Steve Cishek was a close friend of Marlins ace José Fernández from his time with Miami. (AP)...
Steve Cishek was a close friend of Marlins ace José Fernández from his time with Miami. (AP)
(AP)

MINNEAPOLIS – The Mariners clubhouse was quiet Sunday morning, with all eyes trained on the television screens as the terrible story of the death of Miami Marlins pitcher José Fernández, who was killed in a boating accident early Sunday morning, was being told. Perhaps hit hardest by the news was Steve Cishek, who was a teammate and friend of the 24-year-old Fernández.

“José was awesome,” Cishek said, voice shaking. “He was a great teammate. He could just bring a smile to everyone’s face. He just showed up at the field smiling.”

A phone call from his wife Sunday morning answered the questions that Cishek had after awaking to texts from friends expressing condolences.

“It’s really shocking just to have that be the first thing I woke up to this morning. It’s just tragic,” he said. “I can’t fathom what he went through and what those guys on the Marlins are going through right now and obviously his family. My heart just grieves for his family and how hard it was to get over here. It’s just heartbreaking.”

Baseball is a small fraternity, with players crossing paths in and out of season. Mariners center fielder Leonys Martín hails from the same hometown in Cuba as Fernández and was also shook up by the news. Never at a loss for words or a loud, good-natured crack at a teammate, Martín was silent Sunday morning.

“They all feel they are invincible,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “Things happen tragically, accidents happen. There is no rhyme or reason for it. I hate to see it happen to anyone. It hurts. It hurts all of our guys and everybody who is attached to the game. The baseball community is such a tight knit group, especially a player that talented, that kind of personality. The electricity he would bring to to the game, it’s very, very sad. Obviously you can see in our clubhouse today. He was just a really good baseball player, fantastic person. I enjoyed watching him pitch like everybody.”

“He was someone you wanted to go to battle with,” Cishek said. “You knew when it was his start day we were probably going to win that game. He was just a tenacious competitor. What you saw on the field you got off the field. He was just smiling and laughing all the time. Someone you enjoyed being around.”

While the game in Miami has been postponed, baseball goes on elsewhere, and the Mariners will take the field with heavy hearts. For Cishek, his thoughts are with the family and fans of Fernández.

“They loved José. The fans are dealing with this just as hard, I am sure,” he said. “When José pitched it was electric. Typically more people would show up. They showed up to see José and José brings the energy and they also come in with energy. It just lit the place up.”

A bright light in Miami and in baseball is no more. A terrible loss.

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Steve Cishek, Mariners express shock over news of the death of Marlins ace José Fernández