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Marlins fans in Miami's Cuban American community reflect on loss of Jose Fernandez

Posted at 7:11 PM, Sep 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-26 19:11:31-04

Monday evening, Marlins fans prepared for an emotional evening at the ballpark.

The team honored Jose Fernandez at their game against the Mets, with everyone wearing #16 in his honor.

Away from the game, however, it's his legacy in the Cuban American community that is resonating with fans.

“Be a good baseball player, live the American Dream, escaping from Cuba...that's what we all want,” says Omar Lopez with the Cuban American National Foundation.

Lopez knows that feeling. 

After being a political prisoner in Cuba - arrested nearly a dozen times - he finally made his way to America two decades ago. 

“I have lived the American Dream,” Lopez says.

Now working with the Foundation in Miami, he had the pleasure of meeting Jose Fernandez three years ago - a man also living the dream. 

“We were all looking to him as the baseball hero, the major league superstar. And he was looking at us as some kind of superstar for him,” he says.

Lopez says Jose was a humble superstar with an extraordinary story. 

Fernandez left Cuba by boat in 2008 - a harrowing journey that included Fernandez jumping overboard one night to rescue his own mother from the water. 

Just a few years later, he would go from refugee to South Florida sports star. 

Alfredo Otero, who made immigrated here from Cuba just 4 years ago, was among those mourning the loss Monday at Marlins Park - a loss that transcends sports. 

“Jose inspired me to work hard, to get my future, my goals in my life,” Otero says.

For a team playing in the heart of a neighborhood called 'Little Havana', where Cuban flags proudly fly high, Jose was a symbol.

“In this country, your dreams come true if you want,” Otero says. “You work hard, you can do it.”

Lopez says Fernandez’s legacy is now set in South Florida.  

“The Cuban who made it - the Cuban who made it in all senses.”

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