(Reuters) - Miami Marlins leadoff hitter Dee Gordon honored former pitcher Jose Fernandez by hitting a home run in his team’s first at-bat in an emotionally charged 7-3 victory over the New York Mets on Monday.
The 24-year-old Fernandez, a two-time All Star and 2013 National League Rookie of the Year, was killed early on Sunday in a boating accident, prompting an outpouring of grief around baseball.
The Marlins canceled their game on Sunday against the Atlanta Braves and emotions were running high at Marlins Park when they returned to face the Mets on Monday.
Gordon’s blast was his first of the season, and came after he had taken the first pitch from Mets starter Bartolo Colon while batting right handed in emulation of Fernandez.
The normally left-handed hitting Gordon then sent a towering fly ball over the right field fence and broke down in tears on his way to home plate before being hugged by his team mates when he got back to the dugout.
“I’ve never hit a ball that far, even in (batting practice),” Gordon told reporters. “I don’t have kids, so that was the best moment of my life – hitting that homer for him.”
As part of the team’s tributes to Fernandez, the Marlins wore his number 16 jersey for the game, while they also kneeled around the mound before it started.
Marlins and Mets players also shook hands and embraced beforehand, while a lone trumpeter played ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’ as a video tribute was displayed on the scoreboard.
Miami starter Adam Conley refused to take the mound before it was time for him to pitch. Fernandez had been scheduled to pitch the game.
“That was Jose’s mound today,” Conley said.
Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Greg Stutchbury