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Jose

Jose Fernandez will be laid to rest Thursday, but the mourning will continue for a long time. He was so young, so talented, so full of life.Fernandez risked so much to escape his native Cuba. His first two tries failedand landed him not only back in Cuba, but in prison.Still, he persisted. Not for a long-held dream to play in the major leagues. As a teen in Cuba, Fernandez knew little about baseball in the U.S. He and his mother kept trying to reach the States for something far more important than baseball: freedom.MORE:Jimmy Foxx Jersey Moving photos from memorial serviceMaybe that’s why Fernandez played the game so joyfully. Sure, it’s easy to smile when you can throw a fastball 94 mph and follow it up with a devastating slider, but the majors are filled with supremely talented athletes, and too many who prefer to scowl.Not Jose Fernandez. On the mound, at the plate, in the batting cage, in the dugout, before games,during games, after games,baseball for him was full of joy, laughter, pa sion and exuberance. His approach didn’t make him any le s a competitor. It didn’t le sen his desire to win.MORE: Notable sports deaths of 2016He had no use for the unwritten rules of baseball. He had come from a place with too many rules about what he could say, how he could actand what he could be. Here, in a major league game, he was free.Fernandez’s spectacular feats on the field and otherworldly stats made us pay attention, but his smile pulled us in, wrapped us in jubilance, and made us love him. That’s why his tragic death at age 24 is so painfulhttps://www.philliesedges.com/philadelphia-phillies/mitch-williams-jersey for us. We mourn the potential he never realized on the mound, but there’s a much bigger hole in our hearts where his laugh used to be.MORE: Fernandez’s death brings back painful memories for Mike HargroveLet’s fill that hole by embracing other major leaguers who bring a joyful effervescence to the game. Most of us are familiar with Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre’s antics, like when he ran into left field to avoid a tag on a rundown: Beltre isn’tthe only one. There’s Indians second basemanJason Kipnis, who made Beltre laugh hysterically when he tiptoed away from Beltre’s teammateRougned Odor after turning a double play, making light of Odor’s penchant for aggre sive slides (and his devastating right cro s). Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo had fun with former teammate Dioner Navarro: There’s Rays ace Chris Archer slow-dancing in the dugout to a teammate’s walkup song and borrowing a reporter’s microphone to interview former teammate and mentor David Tug McGraw JerseyPrice.There’s Giants right fielder Hunter Pence’s weird, awkward, gangly catches in the outfield. There’s Mookie Betts and his outfield dance after Red Sox victories. A Coors Field standoff between the Cardinals’Jose Martinez and the Rockies’ Carlos Estevez after the national anthem. And Mets shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera’s enthusiastic bat flip after his monstrous walkoff home run in extra innings.MORE: Marlins to retire Fernandez’s No. 16There’s a little bit of Jose Fernandez in all of us. The more of Jose we let in, the happier we and baseball will be.Wendy Thurm writes about sports, the busine s of sports, and sports law.

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