Jose Fernandez Saved His Mother From Drowning While Defecting From Cuba

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One of Major League Baseball’s brightest young stars is gone much, much too soon.

Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez died early Sunday morning in a tragic boating accident off the coast of Miami Beach. The shocking news hit the baseball world hard, not only because the 24-year-old was one of the most electric pitchers in the game, but also because of the incredible journey he took to reach the sport’s peak.

Fernandez defected from Cuba in 2007 at just 15 years old, surviving harrowing conditions to reach the United States and pursue a professional baseball career. His journey from Cuba to the U.S. was detailed three years ago in an excellent feature on the now-defunct Grantland, and that story includes an excerpt of a pretty incredible moment during Fernandez’s defection:

Fernandez risked his life while heroically saving his mother from drowning. But incredibly, Fernandez admitted he didn’t know it was his mother when he jumped in the water to save her, meaning that at just 15 years old, he put his own life in peril to rescue someone who could have been a complete stranger.

The charismatic right-hander made the most of his opportunity after reaching the U.S., getting drafted by the Marlins in 2011 and blossoming into one of the best pitchers in baseball. And while his life ended very prematurely, this story is one of many that emphasizes how special he was outside the game of baseball.

Click to read Grantland’s full feature on Fernandez >>

Thumbnail photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images

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