Fernandez hopes Cuba game raises awareness

Fernandez hopes Cuba game raises awareness

JUPITER, Fla. -- Jose Fernandez is following Major League Baseball's trip to Cuba with mixed emotions.

The Marlins' 23-year-old ace defected from Cuba at age 15, and he was in the big leagues five years later. From a baseball standpoint, Fernandez is excited about the historic exhibition in Havana, but he also stressed that the most important issue to him is bringing positive change to the lives of the people in the country.

Rays
Historic Cuba visit
Historic Cuba game filled with thrills
Manfred seeks relationship between MLB, Cuba
Varona first to play in Cuba after defecting
Cuba visit an emotional time for Archer
President Obama's gameday in Havana

Sights & sounds
MLB returns to Cuba
Santos' sliding catch
Obama greets Jeter
Rays shake hands with Obama
Kiermaier scores game's first run

"If I was living there, I think I'd go watch the game," Fernandez said Tuesday morning. "I'd be in shock that I'd be seeing a Major League team probably for the first time in my life. Hopefully, this is a beginning for a change. That's the way that I see it."

From a social standpoint, Fernandez hopes the exhibition raises awareness for change. He still has family in Cuba, and having grown up on the island, he understands the plight of the people there.

• Fernandez tosses 5 hitless innings in Grapefruit start

"For the people, the [best outcome] is to see a change," Fernandez said. "That's the main goal here. From the baseball side, we all know there is a bunch of talent over there. Hopefully they can see how the big league players go about it. There are so many things that have to change. I think we all know about it."

Fernandez defected from Cuba in 2008, and he settled in Tampa, Fla. The Marlins selected the right-hander in the first round in '11, and two years later, he was in the big leagues, winning the National League Rookie of the Year Award in '13.

Spring: Tickets | Ballpark | 40-man roster | NRIs

Fernandez became a United States citizen in 2015.

Asked if he would ever consider pitching for the Cuban National Team, Fernandez said: "Tough question. There are so many things that I would have to see change before I'd do that. I went through so many things trying to get here. My family went through so many things."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.