To many people, José Fernandez is a pitching phenom, but to me he's a friend. Keep that in mind and I'll get back to it later.
Along the course of my career in the sports and entertainment field, I've crossed paths with many entertainers and athletes and something interesting generally happens... not always, but sometimes.
By no means am I a sports fanatic; truth is, as a kid growing up in New York, I most definitely was. I loved the Yankees as a young adult and I was addicted to the New York Knicks. I became friends with Pat Riley and adored Anthony Mason, may he rest in peace. I would take my nephew Danny to Madison Square Garden, grab a knish and we'd watch Patrick Ewing post up; what memories!
Come to think of it, maybe the reason Michael Strahan and I get along so well is that we never talk football. Truth be told, I can't talk football, I know nothing about it! He does hold a grudge that I am a better dancer but again, different story for another time.
I did love New York sports but when I moved to South Florida, that all changed. As time passed, I stopped watching sports. Mainly because my teams weren't on TV in Florida. I lost that personal attachment. John Starks was gone, I couldn't root for a team I no longer knew. It wouldn't be for years until I became a Heat fan; I felt rooting for the Heat was disloyal but when Pat Riley returned to Miami; that made it ok!
I had attended almost all of the home Yankees games from 1996 to 2001 as a season ticket holder and was so lucky to see some incredible and historically significant games. Later on, Chuck Knoblauch and I worked together; also a whole different story for another time, but I will say that despite what you read in the media, Chuck has an enormous heart, I will tell you that without reservation.
So, almost 15 years removed from New York and as close to being a Marlins fan as possible, I will explain why. José Fernandez and I crossed paths and became friends; similar to when Bill Goldberg and I became friends. I hadn't watched a whole lot of his on-field heroics so this was just two guys who became friends; no underlying "give and take" and no fandom. Then I began to follow his career; I watched what an amazing worth ethic he had while he recovered from what could end the careers of many pitchers. I saw José as he returned from Tommy John surgery and it has been triumphant. We talked and texted along the way; sometimes about baseball but usually not. I watched as he became a U.S. citizen and saw how proud he was. As a patriot, that was inspiring to see. I witnessed what a great son, grandson and nephew José was. He is mature well beyond his years. When José told me how much fun he had at our Legends of Wrestling show at Marlins Park last year I felt really happy. I hope he felt a similar feeling when I told him how proud I was that he had worked so hard at English. He has really mastered it!
José is more than an amazing pitcher, he is an amazing friend, and when I found out that our Legends of Wrestling show was returning to Marlins Park on July 31st and that was José's birthday, I was ecstatic and wanted to give something back to him. I believe everything happens for a reason; things do come full circle. So I called Rey Rey, our official belt maker from World Champion Belts, and together we designed a special Legends of Wrestling Championship Belt, a custom José Fernandez edition. I'm going to present it to José at the event and I can't wait to see his face when he see's his number 16 on the belt. I hope he smiles as big as the smiles on the kids I see when he always selflessly gives them attention. José returns to the mound July 2nd and you can be assured that I'll be there, at Marlins stadium with my kids, cheering him on. ¡Dale José!