Marlins’ Jose Fernandez dazzles, but ‘Abuela’ steals the spotlight
MIAMI — Perhaps the only person making more headlines after Marlins right-hander Jose Fernandez’s Opening Night performance is his grandmother.
Olga, who received a 5-year visa that allows her to stay in the United States for 365 days before returning to Cuba and coming back after another year, watched Fernandez pitch for the first time since he was 14.
"Oh boy," Fernandez said Tuesday. "Everybody was telling me, "Dude, your mom and grandma came on TV more than you pitching.’ I’m like, ‘Jeez.’"
The reigning National League Rookie of the Year pitched six innings, allowing just a home run to Carlos Gonzalez.
During batting practice, Fernandez brought out personalized jerseys onto the field with his No. 16 as well as "Mama" and "Abuela" on the back for his mom and grandmother.
"She’s not a crying person, but I knew it was going to be special for her to see me throw and see me do good," Fernandez said.
Abuela will live with him and his mom in Miami. Rather than travel back to their homes in Tampa when the club is on the road, they will stay in Miami.
According to Fernandez, there’s "no doubt" she will attend every home game. Olga played baseball when she was younger.
The 21-year-old recalled a time when he and his friends played in the streets — third base was the curb of his house — and abuela caught a line drive that he missed.
"She’ll never get tired of watching baseball," Fernandez said. "She’s in her house watching the Cuban League that’s not even close to being this, and she stays up and watches every game."
In fact, when the Marlins played a spring training game against the New York Yankees this past weekend, she remarked that "our team played."
Baffled by what she meant, Fernandez realized she meant the Santa Clara, Cuba team. Fernandez looked up the score online and found out it had lost.
"’I told you they’re not good.’" Fernandez said to her. "She got mad. ‘No, they’re good. You should be there now pitching for them.’"
Good thing for the Marlins he isn’t.
Fernandez became only the second starting pitcher to record nine strikeouts and no walks on Opening Day in the last 16 seasons and just the 10th ever, joining guys like Mike Mussina, Cy Young and Steve Carlton.
He also earned the distinction as the second pitcher to win on Opening Day after being Rookie of the Year the previous year.
"That’s a pretty good list," manager Mike Redmond said. "It doesn’t surprise me. This kid’s going to end up on a lot of lists with a lot of great pitchers the way he’s going.
"Last year winning the Rookie of the Year was just the start for this kid. I know we all feel so confident when he’s up there and such a great chance to win. He’s just hungry. That’s the beauty of Jose. He wants it every single time he gets the ball. That’s what it’s really all about."