Infielder takes first pitch from right side, then goes deep as lefty swinger
By Joe Frisaro
MIAMI -- An emotional and teary-eyed Dee Gordon paid tribute to Jose Fernandez in dramatic fashion on Monday night at Marlins Park. The two-time All-Star second baseman, after taking one pitch batting from the right side in the first inning, switched back to his natural lefty spot, and two pitches later belted his first home run of the season, a second-deck drive off Mets righty Bartolo Colon.
It was a poetic moment on a night when the Marlins struggled to find the right words to explain the loss of a teammate. The homer also provided a much-needed lift that helped carry Miami to a 7-3 win.
Gordon has been visibly shaken since the passing of Fernandez, who died along with two friends early Sunday morning in a boating accident. Leading off the bottom of the first, Gordon hit his first home run of the season.
"It was for [Fernandez], because he loved to hit as much as he loved to pitch," Gordon said. "I thought that was just my way of showing him that, 'I love you. I miss you. I'm always going to miss you.'"
"You talk about team," manager Don Mattingly said. "It's something we've been fighting for, have a team. Today, you see that. We see a team. We talk about, in these situations, being family. To these guys, this is their family, within this locker room. You travel, you play, you go through things. It's their only safe place."
In honor of Fernandez, all of the Miami players wore No. 16 Fernandez jerseys. Before taking the field in the top of the first, Gordon repeated a ritual Fernandez made routine before each start, touching the dirt on the back of the mound before trotting to his spot at second base.
"It was very important," Gordon said of channeling Fernandez. "That's how much fun he was. I just wanted to be like him. That was just my way."
Gordon, and all players, stepped into the batter's box without their typical walkup music.
Gordon stepped in as a right-handed hitter, in honor of Fernandez, for one pitch, a ball. Then he exchanged helmets, went to the left side and took a second pitch. The helmet, contrary to in-game speculation, was not Fernandez's, because of the difference in sizes. But the No. 16 was displayed.
The third pitch Gordon saw was belted a Statcast-projected 377 feet, with an exit velocity of 100 mph.
Dee Gordon batted right-handed for one pitch in tribute to Jose Fernandez. Then he hit a leadoff homer. Unbelievable. Unreal. Incredible.
Normally one of the fastest runners in the sport, Gordon savored a long, heartfelt home run trot.
"It took forever," Gordon said. "I'm always trying to get back to my teammates as fast as possible, but I couldn't get there."
After crossing home plate, in tears, Gordon hugged Marcell Ozuna, who was on deck. Before entering the dugout, he received a big hug from hitting coach Barry Bonds, then from the rest of his teammates.
"Pure emotion," Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton said of Gordon's homer. "There's no other way to script it, unless you're in a movie rewriting everything that just happened tonight. I couldn't believe it. Put my hands up, give him a hug and hold it together for my at-bat."
Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. 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.