Brewers hitters honor Fernandez vs. Reds

Brewers hitters honor Fernandez vs. Reds

MILWAUKEE -- A number of Brewers hitters stepped to the plate in silence Sunday during the home finale at Miller Park, their usual up-tempo music shelved as a tribute to Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, who died overnight in a boating accident in Miami.

There were no former teammates on Milwaukee's roster, and Fernandez pitched just once against the Brewers. Yet the sense of loss was palpable in a quiet clubhouse Sunday morning.

"It doesn't feel real," Ryan Braun said. "It's impossible to process the fact that he's actually gone."

Braun played college ball at Miami and grew to love the Cuban American community there, which Fernandez joined in 2013, when his oversized personality and electric right arm made it to the Majors. Brewers manager Craig Counsell, who played parts of three seasons in Miami and won a World Series there in 1997, had the same experience.

Fernandez epitomized joy, Counsell said.

"I think that's what makes this so sad today, is that he reminds you of the joy of what the game can bring you," Counsell said. "And when you start to understand his life and the backstory of his life, you understand why he played and lived with such joy and great competitiveness and [was so] carefree.

"And joy -- joy is the word that comes to mind. That's what I think of right now is that we should celebrate his joy, the joy that he lived his life with and played baseball with. And it should be a thing that we should carry with us and learn from him."

The Brewers had a chance to draft Fernandez in 2011, when they took Taylor Jungmann with the 12th overall pick. Fernandez went 14th, followed by another pitcher, Jed Bradley, to the Brewers at No. 15.

Former Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin has said in the years since that Fernandez got word to clubs that he would go to college unless he was drafted by the Marlins.

"I remember my first year at [advanced Class A Brevard County], I was in the stands charting this guy who was sitting 94-97 [mph] and he had a hammer breaking ball he was throwing at 85. I had never heard of him," Jungmann said. "Someone told me he was drafted after me, which I couldn't believe. Just an amazing pitcher.

"I knew who he was after that. That was for sure."

Brewers catcher Martin Maldonado and utility man Hernan Perez were among the first to decide to silence their walk-up music. The Brewers and Reds stood at attention for a moment of silence before the National Amthem.

"For me, personally, he was one of the most competitive pitchers I've ever seen, even when he was hitting," Maldonado said. "This year, I was catching Wily [Peralta, in the Brewers' May 9 game against Fernandez]. He came to the plate and was saying, 'That guy's sinker is nasty.' Then he laughed and said, 'I'm going to get a hit. I want a hit.'"

Fernandez did not get a hit that day, but he did strike out 11 batters in seven scoreless innings of a 4-1 win at Marlins Park.

"It doesn't make sense that this larger than life personality and persona is gone," Braun said. "He's one of those guys you feel like you get to know, just by watching on TV. His energy, his personality was so unique. It was really infectious. You could just feel the energy when he was pitching.

"You could tell everybody loved him. It's devastating, it's heartbreaking. There aren't words for any of us to describe the heartbreak we feel for him and his family and the Marlins organization."

The Marlins cancelled their Sunday game against the Braves. In Milwaukee, Braun said, it felt strange to play.

As it usually does, however, baseball played on.

"The show goes on for us," Counsell said, "but it's a sad day."

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.