The Orion

Palmer and Fernandez

Nick Martinez-Esquibel

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Golf legend Arnold Palmer and Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez came from two very different backgrounds.

Fernandez grew up in Cuba trying to escape the country for a good part of his life. After three failed attempts and some time in jail, he and his family made it to Mexico in 2008.

Palmer was born in a working-class steel mill town in west Pennsylvania in 1929. He attended Wake Forest College on a golf scholarship, just a stepping stone on his way to becoming one of the best golfers the world has ever seen.

On Sunday, Sept. 25, the two tragically shared the same spotlight.

Fernandez was just 24 when the boat he was on crashed, killing him and two other passengers early that morning. Palmer, 87, died in a hospital in his home state while awaiting cardiac surgery later that day.

Palmer left behind a lifetime of achievements and unforgettable memories. He won the Masters four times, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor and is the famed creator of the half ice tea, half lemonade drink, naturally named an “Arnold Palmer.”

Fernandez’s story was just getting started. In 2013, he won Rookie of the Year and was voted to the All-Star game. In 2014, Tommy John surgery forced him to miss most of the season. After recovering from surgery, he dominated the league once again with his electrifying fastball, appearing in his second All-Star game this past July.

Palmer will be remembered for a legacy that will never be matched. Fernandez will be remembered for a legacy that never got the chance to come to fruition.

It’s times like these when sports transcend a ball or a golf club. It goes beyond the game itself to touch the lives of thousands of people. The Palmer and Fernandez families weren’t the only ones weeping on Sunday; the entire golf and baseball world did too.

Golf legends like Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus expressed their sorrow through social media. Teams all over Major League Baseball hung “Fernandez” jerseys in their dugouts at the games following his death.

The Marlins’ first game back following Fernandez’s death seemed like a movie script. Minutes after honoring his teammate in the opening ceremony, shortstop Dee Gordon hit his first home run of the season. As he rounded the bases, tears rushed down his face, along with the fans and opposing players. You don’t even have to be a sports fan for that moment to send chills down your back.

Sports can triumph over any racial or economic differences. They don’t care who you are or where you come from. The golfer that lives on a country club golf course was affected by the death of Palmer the same way a kid in Cuba playing baseball with a rock and wooden stick was affected by Fernandez. Two different worlds, same grieving fans.

As everyone tries to move on from the loss of a legend and a star taken too soon, they are reminded that they’re not alone, just like Palmer and Fernandez.

Though they may come from two very different backgrounds, the two will be remembered together on September 25.

Nick Martinez-Esquibel can be reached at [email protected] or @THENickMartinez on Twitter.

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Palmer and Fernandez