Marlins star pitcher Jose Fernandez, a strong candidate for the National League Rookie of the Year Award, recently sat down with MLB.com reporter Jesse Sanchez to discuss, among other things, his rapid rise to the Major Leagues and his life in Cuba before his defection in 2008. What follows is an English translation of the video interview, which was conducted in Spanish.
Jose Fernandez: Hi, I'm Jose Fernandez, and this is a day in my life.
Jose: I'm actually looking at the sea. I love the sea; I enjoy watching it in the morning. Looking at cruise ships coming in and out. It's beautiful. I like Miami a lot.
Jesse: What is a normal day like for Jose Fernandez?
Jose: It would be to go out to the ballpark and learn something new, every day. For example, I have to throw a bullpen session today, and I have to work on things that are good for me. I want to pitch a good bullpen session, and that would be a great day for me. The other thing I'd like to see, God willing, is to have my grandmother see me pitch live.
Jesse: You pitched against Yasiel Puig. What was that like, and how is Puig as a person?
Jose: It was a great experience, he's a great Cuban player -- it was the first time I played against a Cuban player this year. He's done a great job, his quality as a baseball player is beyond any doubts. Personally, he's a good guy. I can imagine he is a good teammate. I don't know him that much, but from what I can see, he's a nice person and a humble guy and he fully deserves the love of his fans.
Broadcaster: Here comes the pitch, it's a fastball ... swing and a miss and he struck out. Fernandez sent three straight 97-mph fastballs his way.
Jesse: What do you think of the A's Yoenis Cespedes, the Reds' Aroldis Chapman and of all the Cuban players who play in the Majors?
Jose: I was able to dedicate some time at the All-Star Game to talk to them. I'm so happy for everything they've accomplished so far, and I hope they can keep on doing great things.
Jesse: And what was your experience at the All-Star Game in New York like?
Jose: It was incredible, and very important for me. It was my first, so it was very exciting to be around so many stars and be able to talk to them and share our experiences.
Broadcaster: Jose Fernandez, a young pitcher with a story straight out of a movie, friends. And here he comes, with the third strike to Dustin Pedroia at 96 mph. Jose Fernandez, debuting at the All-Star Game. A high pitch, and there's the swing and a popup to foul territory and he's out. What a performance from the Cuban pitcher of the Miami Marlins.
Jesse: You know the names Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez, Livan Hernandez. What do they mean for you?
Jose: They set an example for me. They were in the Major Leagues and had great career accomplishments. They became role models -- not just for myself, but also for all Cuban players who are in the Majors. They showed us that it's possible to be successful here.
Jesse: What would it mean for you to win the National League Rookie of the Year Award?
Jose: It would be very important, something the fans especially are looking forward to. They would be happy about it. No matter who gets the award, it will be well deserved. No matter what happens, God willing, the outcome will be the best one possible for me.
Jesse: You've risen quickly in the Majors. What have the adjustments been like for you?
Jose: It has meant a lot of work for me, first and foremost. Second, it has been a matter of discipline as an athlete. It is important in order to accomplish the goals you want to achieve in life. And the support of your family is also paramount. My family has always been there for me. Another person who has been key in my life and in baseball is my personal pitching coach, Orlando Chinea. I have learned a lot from the work we've done together, and I'm very happy for all that.
Jesse: How was it like to be raised in Cuba, and how different was your life then, compared to the one you live now?
Jose: They're totally different. There are so many different things. The way of life in Cuba is completely different. For example, I used to ride a bike there. Now I drive a car, that's amazing. I've learned to deal with so many struggles, trying to make ends meet and not having a lot of material things. Sometimes I had to depend on so many things I couldn't control. It was so different, and here in America you have a lot more opportunities. This is, without a doubt, the best country in the world.
Jesse: You left Cuba when you were 15 years old. Can you tell us about that process, and why did you leave the country?
Jose: Quite simply, because I wanted to try things out and I wanted to prove to my family that I was going to pitch in the Major Leagues. I wanted to accomplish my dreams. It was a tough decision because I had to leave all my relatives there, especially my grandmother, whom I love immensely. Thank God, I came here. I worked very hard and started from the bottom up. I'm now going onward and upward.
Broadcaster: Pitching ... strike swinging. He has 14 strikeouts. A new record. He breaks his own personal record. First he surpassed Josh Beckett and now he has topped himself.
Jesse: You were incarcerated several times before finally leaving Cuba. What was that experience like?
Jose: Honestly, I didn't enjoy it at all. It was tough, I had to learn and see things I shouldn't have seen and learned about. Those things happen in life for a reason. The best thing about it is that I learned a lot from that particular ordeal.
Jesse: Did you ever think about giving up?
Jose: Never. Not a chance. I made my decision right from the start and I kept strong. I always believed I'd get a chance to arrive to the United States. Thank God, we were able to arrive here. I'm happy we were able to.
Jesse: What kept you motivated during those times?
Jose: Baseball was what kept me going. It was the most important thing for me, to be honest. It was the desire to prove myself as a person that I'd be able to play in the Major Leagues.
Jesse: Tell us about baseball and your relationship with the game. When did you start to play it?
Jose: Since I was a very small kid. In Cuba, the streets are made of dirt and I was always pitching rocks and I carried a wooden stick all the time with me, hitting stones. I think it's something that came naturally for me, since no one else in my family was so inclined to the game. It was something that no one taught me and I just liked a lot. Baseball means everything to me. Baseball is respect, baseball is admiration. And you must dedicate plenty of hard work and respect to the game, which is the most important thing.
Jesse: You have brought the Miami community around the game. What is it like for you to play in Little Havana, in front of fans that have dealt with experiences similar as yours?
Jose: It's important for me. I want kids to see a positive role model from someone who has been through the same things they've been through. I want them to see that with hard work and dedication you can accomplish everything you want in life.
Jesse: Do fans recognize you on the street?
Jesse: And what do they tell you?
Jose: They are happy for me. They tell me they like the good mood I bring to the team. They like the fact I'm always laughing.
(With Felo) Jose: Felo, they told me you were going to tweet today?
Jose: And what's that going to be like?
Felo: I bet people are going to give me a hard time on Twitter.
Jose: They're going to give you a hard time.
Jose: I think first and foremost, Felo is a good friend. He's done so many important things throughout his life and career, not just for himself, but also for the whole community. He's a role model, not just for Cubans, but also for the whole world. I'm so happy to have the opportunity to have him as a friend. He's always joking, and I love him so much. I send him a big hug with all my heart .
Jose(on the field): How's everything, nice and easy?
Jose(with Felo): OK, Felito, take care, OK?
Felo: How's the ...
Jose: The delivery? You know how it is!
Jose: It's been such a pleasure to have you with me, with all my heart. I've had a wonderful time doing this. I hope you've enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed doing it. Thank you and God bless you.