MIAMI -- In the aftermath of the tragedy that claimed the life of superstar José Fernández, the Marlins paid tribute to the beloved pitcher throughout an emotional yet uplifting game against the Mets the day after the 24-year-old's sudden and tragic passing.On Friday, MLB recognized the Marlins with the Esurance
MIAMI -- In the aftermath of the tragedy that claimed the life of superstar José Fernández, the Marlins paid tribute to the beloved pitcher throughout an emotional yet uplifting game against the Mets the day after the 24-year-old's sudden and tragic passing.
On Friday, MLB recognized the Marlins with the Esurance MLB Best Moment Award for their poignant pregame ceremony, courageous play and touching postgame memorial on Sept. 26.
Each Marlins player sported Fernandez's No. 16 jersey and gathered around the mound to commemorate their friend and teammate prior to first pitch. A recording of a lone trumpet playing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" echoed throughout Marlins Park amid silence, as a montage of Fernandez's life flashed across the videoboard in right field, underlined by his iconic and vibrant smile.
:: 2016 MLB Awards winners coverage ::
The starting position players flanked the mound during the National Anthem, and starting pitcher Adam Conley remained behind until it was time for the first pitch. After the ceremony, the Mets approached the Marlins, and players from both sides embraced in solidarity.
"You talk about team," manager Don Mattingly said that unforgettable night. "It's something we've been fighting for, have a team. Today, you see that. We see a team. We talk about, in these situations, being family. To these guys, this is their family, within this locker room. You travel, you play, you go through things. It's their only safe place."
The Marlins went on to defeat the Mets, 7-3, highlighted by Dee Gordon's improbable -- and symbolic -- leadoff home run. Gordon, who had not hit a homer all season, paid his respects to Fernandez by stepping to the plate from the right side. He imitated Fernandez's hitting stance and took one pitch, a ball, from Bartolo Colon, before he reset, changed helmets and stepped into the box from his natural left side.
After the game, the Marlins' players and coaches came together around the pitcher's mound in a display of unity, standing shoulder to shoulder while Giancarlo Stanton delivered a speech and the crowd chanted "Jo-se! Jo-se!" The players then removed their caps and left them on the mound.
The Best Moment honor was selected over tributes to retiring broadcast legend Vin Scully and Red Sox slugger David Ortiz. The other finalists were Marlins outfielder Ichiro Suzuki's chase for 3,000 hits and retiring Yankees' first baseman Mark Teixeira's special sendoff on Oct. 2.
The Esurance MLB Awards annually honor Major League Baseball's greatest achievements as part of an industry-wide balloting process that includes five groups, each of which accounts for 20 percent of the overall vote: media, front-office personnel, retired MLB players, fans at MLB.com and Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) voters.
The MLB Awards are an all-inclusive program, encompassing the top players and performances from both the American League and National League from Opening Day through the end of the postseason.
Individual awards went to the Best Major Leaguer in addition to the winners in the following categories: Best Hitter, Pitcher, Rookie, Defensive Player, Manager, Executive, Social Media Personality and Postseason Performer.
Winners were also recognized for the year's best Offensive Play, Defensive Play, Regular-Season Moment, Postseason Moment, Single-Game Performance, Social Media Post, Fan Catch, Broadcast Call, Player-Fan Interaction and Trending Topic.
Voting began on Sept. 19 at 4 p.m. ET at MLB.com/awards, one hour after the inaugural Esurance MLB Fans of the Year winners were announced.
Winners of the 2016 Esurance MLB Awards were unveiled at a reception in Manhattan's Chelsea Market, on MLB social channels and during a live broadcast on MLB Network and MLB.com.
Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. MLB.com reporter Daniel Kramer contributed to this story.