Yesterday was a very hard day in the baseball world. During the early hours of Sunday morning, we lost one of the great personalities and players of our day. 24-year-old Marlins right-hander José Fernández, along with two friends, died in a tragic boating accident on the coast of Miami. Similar to the experience of many others, my heart sank when I saw the tweets start rolling in. Fernandez was so young, so energetic, and so full of life that learning about his death felt like a punch to the gut.
Over the last 24 hours, as I’ve processed the news, one phrase has come to mind over and over again: “Be where your feet are.” The phrase, which I initially saw in Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle’s comments to reporters yesterday, is a profound exhortation to enjoy each moment and not take life for granted. And it’s also a phrase that I believe captures why we loved Fernández so much.
Yes, he was incredibly talented and on a path toward the Hall of Fame. However, Fernández was so much more than a young stud with a rocket arm. He played baseball as if it were his favorite thing in the world. As the saying goes, he was like a kid in a candy shop whenever he stepped on the field. Just look at the sheer joy in his reaction to teammate Giancarlo Stanton’s ninth inning game-tying home run in 2013.
Given the timing, I couldn't help but think of parallels between José Fernández and Dodgers' legendary broadcaster Vin Scully. What I believe makes José and Vin so attractive and compelling to us is the way in which they approached their craft. When you watched Fernández pitch or listened to Scully broadcast a game, you had the sense that this was their favorite part of the day. As Grant Brisbee put it, “Fernández played baseball like someone who didn’t want to be anywhere else, probably because he didn’t want to be anywhere else.”
So what can we learn from the death of one of the brightest stars in baseball? In these moments following a tragedy, the typical response is to focus on the fragile nature of life and the fact that none of us are guaranteed another day. And while that’s true and perhaps appropriate, I think we can learn the most and remember Fernández the best by focusing not on how he died but on how he lived.
For many of us, there’s a natural tendency to merely survive the moment of life we’re in, waiting for the greener pastures of the next chapter where we’ll truly experience life’s fullness. But the lesson we see in the lives of Fernández and Scully is that a life well lived is a life that is enjoyed in the everyday moments.
Whether we’re given 87 years like Scully or 24 years like Fernández, let us approach each day with the intention to “be where our feet are.”