Dee Gordon appeared to be fine — but then the emotion of the moment hit him.
The Miami Marlins leadoff hitter was the first of “The Fish” to step into the batter’s box since the tragic death of the team’s superstar pitcher, Jose Fernandez.
Fernandez was killed in a boating accident early Sunday morning, overwhelming the team and much of the baseball world with grief over the loss of a star whose bright shine was only expected to glow brighter.
The two-time All-Star was only 24 years old and just wrapping up the best season of his career — a 16-8 record with a 2.86 ERA and 253 strikeouts in 182.1 innings.
In his memory, the Marlins cancelled Sunday’s game then played Monday’s game wearing a No. 16 jersey with Fernandez’s name on it.
After a pre-game ceremony remembering Fernandez, the left-handed hitting Gordon entered the box batting right-handed while wearing Fernandez’s helmet for the first pitch of the team’s first at-bats.
After taking the pitch, he switched helmets, switched to the opposite side of the plate, and then turned on an offspeed pitch, blasting it into the second deck of the right field seats.
The crowd erupted as he rounded the bases, and after reaching third, the emotion sank in:
Gordon called the moonshot “the best moment of my life.”
What made the moment even more incredible is that Gordon is not a home run hitter. And he definitely never hits balls that far.
The long ball was his first all season, and just the ninth of his six-year Big League career.
So what gives?
“I told the guys, ‘If you don’t believe in God, you might as well start’,” Gordon said of the at-bat. “I ain’t never hit a ball that far, even in BP.”
After the ball was hit, New York Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud said the gravity of the moment affected him as well.
“When (Gordon) was coming to home plate, tears were coming down his face and they were coming down mine too,” he told the press after the game. “I’m pretty sure the whole world felt that emotion.”
Gordon was visibly in tears after crossing home plate and was consoled by his teammates, many of whom gave him hugs while crying as well.
The crowd stood and applauded.
Gordon finished the game 4-for-5 and the Marlins went on to win, 7-3, against the Mets, the same team Fernandez made his Major League debut against in 2013.
Here are some of the moments from Monday’s game, all from the Marlins official Twitter account: