MIAMI — A day after fans said goodbye, family members and friends of Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez attended a private funeral Mass on Thursday.
Fernandez and two friends were killed in a boat crash off South Beach early Sunday.
“I think the most important thing is that he brought this community together around our game in a way that we haven’t seen with an individual player in a very long time,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told ESPN’s Pedro Gomez outside the Mass.
“Obviously, this is a tremendous loss for Jose’s family, for the Marlins organization but really for all of baseball. He was that important to the game. He had an infectious way about him … the way he played the game on the field, and I think people found that enthusiasm to be just really appealing.”
On Wednesday, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, manager Don Mattingly, hitting coach Barry Bonds and players including Marcell Ozuna and Giancarlo Stanton wore white T-shirts emblazoned with Fernandez’s image and the letters “RIP” as they slowly walked the hearse away from Marlins Park in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood. Many in the crowd of about 1,000 chanted “Jose! Jose!” and some waved Cuban flags in honor of the popular Cuban-American player.
Hundreds of fans streamed into St. Brendan’s Catholic Church later Wednesday for a public viewing, which was scheduled to last into the night. Many said they felt compelled to come not only because of Fernandez’s popularity as a player but also because he was a hero to many in the Cuban-American community.
Inside the church, mourners filed past a closed casket framed by flower arrangements in the shapes of the U.S. and Cuban flags, with a large family photo of Fernandez off to one side. Many touched the casket lightly and crossed themselves.
The cause of the crash is being investigated by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. In addition to Fernandez, Emilio Jesus Macias, 27, and Eduardo Rivero, 25, also died in the crash.
Fernandez was an emerging baseball star known for his exuberant personality and style of play. He was National League Rookie of the Year in 2013 and a two-time All-Star. This year he set a single-season Marlins strikeout record with 253.
On Thursday, officials in Tampa said that a jersey worn by Fernandez in high school was missing after a candlelight vigil at his former high school. Officials at Alonso High School filed a police report and authorities are asking whoever took the jersey to return it.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.