Marlins manager Don Mattingly told his team to play with the spirit of the late Jose Fernandez during a meeting on Friday.
The closed-door meeting is an annual tradition on the first day of full-squad workouts. Mattingly used the meeting to give a speech on what he expects from his players, and how they can best honor Fernandez. While no actual quotes from Mattingly are available, some of the players paraphrased what their skipper told them.
“He talked about keeping the passion and energy in the backs of our minds as we go out and play. That’s the one thing we appreciated and loved most about him, was how hard he played and the energy and passion he brought every single day. It was unmatched,” Derek Dietrich said.
Fernandez was known for his in-game energy on days he started and also on days he was a spectator. The pitcher kept the dugout loose and could always be found chatting with a teammate or coach. Fernandez would react to big moments like a fan in the stands, and would bring that same passion to the mound when it was his day to pitch.
“Every time you step between those lines, play with his spirit,” Martin Prado added.
Perhaps the biggest moment of the 2016 baseball season came when Dee Gordon homered in Miami's first game after Fernandez's death. Gordon led off for the Marlins and hit a ball high and far into the outfield seats. It was a rare moment for Gordon and an emotional time for the team. The team played for their fallen teammate that night, and that is now also the mantra for the 2017 season.
“We’re going to go to battle for Jose,” said Gordon.
Miami's first game of the Grapefruit League season will be on February 25th.