Our world—mine and Joe’s—changed forever in the early hours of Saturday, March 19, when John Fernando was pronounced dead from an accident the night before. My son and Joe’s brother, Johnny Fernando, 17, was a high school senior and a baseball player, and he’d seriously played the game from the age of six to the weekend before he died in the first pre-season game of the year. That fateful Saturday, Joe’d been scheduled to leave for a week of pre-season games in Florida with his own high school team. A freshman, Joe, 14, was like John a talented shortstop with a long history of playing high-level travel baseball, and he was vying for a spot on the varsity team; the trip to Florida would be the decider.
I started this blog a few years ago with the subtitle of “On Racing + Breeding + Youth Baseball” because our lives were wrapped around the last-named sport from the time they were youngsters and I was their coach. There are many blog posts here that cover youth ball through the prism of my sons’ participation, including showcases, clinics, and games—many times comparing the athletics of ball to the game of racing.
That Saturday morning, March 19, we came back from the hospital changed forever, and Joe didn’t leave for Florida to join his team as scheduled. But a day later, on reflection that his brother would have wished him to go, he did. And he played well enough in Florida to be named the only freshman on the varsity squad when the team returned.
By that time, though, the game had lost its meaning for him and me. A week after returning, realizing the magnitude of what Joe was dealing with, his coach and the school dropped him to the junior varsity squad because they felt he’d be better off in all ways playing a shorter schedule against easier competition. Joe went through the motions playing this spring—he was a standout on jv on class alone—as we both adapted to life without JF. Four months later, we are still adapting, but changing and growing, too. For the first time in a long time Joe didn’t play ball this summer, but this week he begins a clinic at a Division 1 university that will prepare him for a showcase with college coaches next month. He’s committed to playing, and I’m committed once again to managing a son with college baseball aspirations through the recruiting process.
That means the “Youth Baseball” part of the subtitle will remain because there will be youth baseball posts again.