Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria plans to immortalize star pitcher Jose Fernandez with a massive statue outside Marlins Park, a tribute to the 24-year-old ace who died last September in a boating accident.
Speaking to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick in an extensive interview, Loria revealed plans to create a statue of Fernandez that is “9 or 10 feet tall” because Fernandez was “larger than life.” Those plans could potentially change if Loria sells the team (which could happen during this season, team president David Sampson said this week), but for now Loria has a vision:
“We’re having a big sculpture of Jose made for the plaza or maybe in front of the stadium. William Behrends is doing it. He did the Willie McCovey and Willie Mays sculptures out in San Francisco.”
“I went through hundreds and hundreds of photographs with the sculptor and gestures of Jose’s face to try and make it perfect. No one else is going to get involved in a piece of sculpture other than me, right? I’ve spent 50 years in that world.”
“We’re going to cast it in bronze and paint the glove the red-orange that Jose would like, and that will be the only color on it. I don’t want to make it kitschy, but that was his favorite thing. Hopefully we’ll see it in six months or so. It’s a very long process to cast a sculpture that’s 9 or 10 feet high, as opposed to 6 feet.”
This remains, however, a complicated issue. Fernandez, while beloved as a baseball player, was also ruled to be responsible for the boat crash that also killed two of his friends. His toxicology report showed that Fernandez had cocaine and alcohol in his system at the time of the crash.
As such, as much as Marlins fans want to honor Fernandez, there will be other people who object to him being glorified.
Disgusted that @Marlins are building a 10-ft statue of #JoseFernandez. Drunk driving, drug use & manslaughter should never be glorified #mlb— Shannon Hurd (@LoveTheRox) April 13, 2017
some people just wanna forget that jose fernandez's actions got 2 people killed. but sureeeeee let's give him a statue! #merica— xpatsxjoshx (@xpatsxjoshx) April 13, 2017
Elsewhere in the ESPN interview, Loria talks about his relationship with Fernandez. He says he treated him like a son and describes moments early in Fernandez’s career when he helped the pitcher adjust to life in the big leagues.
Loria also said that while he accepts the toxicology findings, he didn’t know Fernandez to be the type of person to use drugs:
“I know Jose to be a different kind of person. I know there were reports. I know a different person. I know a kid who was fun-loving. I didn’t know a kid who was involved with anything bad. The only thing bad he was involved with was trying to beat your ass right off the plate. That’s the only thing I ever saw.”
The entire interview is worth a read, particularly because it shows a different side of Loria, who is often criticized as baseball’s worst owner.