Baseball, perhaps more than any other sport, is a game of moments. On Monday night in Miami, Dee Gordon and the Marlins gave us all an incredible one.
Playing for the first time since the death of franchise pitcher Jose Fernandez, every member of the Marlins wore Fernandez's name and No. 16 on the back of his jersey. Before the game, the team paid touching tribute to its ace, who died Sunday in a boating accident:
Then, in the bottom of the first inning, Gordon did something that would have seemed too cliche for a melodramatic movie but was throat-clenchingly authentic in real life: He homered on the third pitch he saw from New York Mets right-hander Bartolo Colon.
It was Gordon's first home run of the season. Tears welled in his eyes and spilled down his cheeks as he reached home plate and pointed to the sky.
Cynicism is easy. We media types fall into it all the time; it's a crutch, a safety net, a convenient way to keep emotions at arm's length.
Sometimes, though, the cynicism melts away. Sometimes, a thing moves you, and you let it move you, because we're all human.
Forget the controversy and dysfunction that sometimes hovers around this Miami franchise. Not only did none of it matter on Monday—it didn't even register.
The bittersweet memories of a rising star gone far too soon were the only thing in the air as Gordon rounded the bases.
Perhaps as Gordon touched first base, you were thinking about Fernandez's incredible backstory—how he was locked in a Cuban prison after an unsuccessful defection attempt at age 14, and later saved his mother from drowning when she fell off a boat en route from Cuba to Miami.
Maybe as Gordon rounded second, you were remembering Fernandez's meteoric rise to MLB stardom, the devastating stuff that earned him a National League Rookie of the Year Award in 2013 and made him an All-Star again this year after Tommy John surgery.
By the time Gordon got to third, you might have been recalling the energy and joy Fernandez exuded on the mound, which MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince aptly termed "an unbridled earnestness impossible to replicate but easy to appreciate."
As Gordon crossed home plate, you were possibly thinking about all these things and, quite likely, there was a stinging sensation at the back of your eyes too.
The Marlins won, by the way, 7-3, to get back to .500 at 78-78 and keep their flickering wild-card hopes alive.
However, to trot out the bromide, this was bigger than the game.
Gordon, MLB.com's Joe Frisaro noted, was "visibly shaken" by the death of his friend Fernandez. Before hitting his home run, the slender second baseman took a pitch from the right side, Fernandez's side, imitating the pitcher's stance.
The home run came with long odds, as ESPN.com's Darren Rovell noted:
Again, if it hadn't happened, you wouldn't believe it.
Gordon's homer won't erase the pain in the Marlins' clubhouse and across baseball. Only time can do that, and not even time can do it completely.
But Fernandez, a fiery competitor, would surely have appreciated the effort his teammates put forth. Gordon finished with four hits and two RBI, and first baseman Justin Bour fell a home run shy of the cycle.
"That guy would have been on the mound," Gordon said in somber on-field postgame remarks to Fox Sports' Craig Minervini immediately after the Marlins reverentially circled the hill and piled their hats next to the stenciled-on No. 16. "And if he wasn't on the mound, he would have been on the top step screaming for us."
The tragedy of Jose Fernandez is that he didn't get enough moments to do all the things he was going to do. But on a night when his spirit was everywhere, a grieving Marlins team gave us plenty.