Tampa, FL- Fifteen pitches.
That’s how many pitches Rays prospect Brent Honeywell throws in the bullpen, before starts.He started doing that after meeting Jose Fernandez.
“To this day, that’s all I throw,” Honeywell said. “Because he did.”
Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez lost his life on September 25th, in a boating accident in Miami, and along with his family, the baseball world has mourned the 24-year old beloved superstar.
Honeywell was still in high school when he met Fernandez. He was throwing a bullpen at Fernandez' alma mater, Alonso High, in Tampa in the off-season, prior to making his major league debut. Landy Faedo, Alonso’s head coach was a close, college friend of Honeywell’s father.
Fernandez noticed something about Honeywell that he wanted to offer him advice about.
“He ran over because my tempo was really high. And he told me that I didn’t have to do that, to work on locating fastballs and throwing everything for strikes,” Honeywell said.
He did as Fernandez instructed and every pitch went where it was supposed to. Fernandez laughed, as he watched this transpire.
During that time, Honeywell learned about Fernandez story of escaping Cuba. It left a lasting impression.
“I realize what guys go through to play this game,” Honeywell said.
Beau Wright was a pitcher in the Marlins organization when he met Fernandez.
“When he first showed up in GCL, [he was] a typical eighteen-year old riding that fine line of cocky and confident,” Wright said. “During a game, he would tell me how he would strike each hitter out. And after, he told me how successful he wanted to be in the major leagues.”
Fernandez, a 1st round pick by the Marlins in 2011, shot his way through the minor leagues, making his major league debut in 2013. He was named 2013 Rookie of the Year. From there he connected not just with Marlins fans, but to the hearts of the people of Miami, and to those around the world with similar aspirations, and similar stories of coming to America, to live a better life and pursue the American dream. His childlike spirit and enthusiasm made him a favorite of baseball fans everywhere. He represented many things, to many people. For two guys getting to know him in the minor leagues, he was a guy with an incredible ability to inspire and connect.
When asked whether there was a game he saw him pitch that stood out, Wright said, “Probably every spring training game he threw. I remember one outing he struck out eight of nine Cardinals players. I was convinced he would be great.”
Wright talked about the things Fernandez was known for, a guy always smiling, always in a joking mood, that he was simply a fun person to be in the presence of.
But it was that devotion to greatness that was so clear in Fernandez.
“It was just the incredible determination he had. He knew what he wanted, and he knew how he was going to do it,” Wright said.
Honeywell sums it up.
“He will still go down in the books as one of the best ever,” he said. “What a person.”