When right-hander Jose Fernandez makes his first start of the 2014 season, his biggest fan will be in attendance at Marlins Park.
Olga Fernandez Romero, who received a five-year visitation visa to exit Cuba, surprised her 21-year-old grandson on Sunday in Miami while he took part in interviews.
“Didn’t know anything about it,” Fernandez said during a Monday teleconference. “I was in shock for a couple of minutes. I sat down in my chair. It was pretty amazing. I showed her around the stadium. Pretty excited to have her here.”
Fernandez last saw his grandmother in Santa Clara, Cuba, when he was 15. He, his mother and sister unsuccessfully tried to escape the island several times, eventually reaching Tampa, Fla., after being shot at and imprisoned during their attempts.
On Monday with his grandmother and mother seated next to him, Fernandez became the only Cuban-born player to win the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s National League Rookie of the Year.
In 28 starts, Miami’s ace finished 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA, ranking second in the majors. The lone Miami All-Star in 2013, Fernandez topped all NL rookies in ERA, strikeouts (187) and WHIP (0.98). He also led the majors in holding opponents to a .182 batting average.
“To me, her and my mom are everything that I’ve got,” Fernandez said. “(She’ll) get to see me playing in the big leagues.”