MIAMI -- Every time Marlins left fielder Marcell Ozuna steps on the field, he pays tribute to Jose Fernandez.At some point during the first inning, the 26-year-old uses his right index finger to jot the initials "JF" in the dirt. The memory of Fernandez, who was killed in a boating
MIAMI -- Every time Marlins left fielder Marcell Ozuna steps on the field, he pays tribute to Jose Fernandez.
At some point during the first inning, the 26-year-old uses his right index finger to jot the initials "JF" in the dirt. The memory of Fernandez, who was killed in a boating accident last September, remains fresh to the entire Marlins organization, and especially Ozuna.
"We miss him a lot," Ozuna said. "When we started the season, I said, 'I'm going to give it my best. I'm going to dedicate the season, no matter what, to Jose Fernandez.'"
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A two-time All-Star, Fernandez was one of the top young pitchers and most exciting players in the game.
At media day for the MLB All-Star Game presented by Mastercard, Ozuna spoke of his tight friendship with the ace who passed at age 24.
The two came up through the Marlins' system, and won a championship in the Minors. Their families also were very close.
"We were always together," Ozuna said. "Every time we were in another city, we were always together. Every time we were here, and had a day off, he'd call me: 'Where you at? Come to my house.'"
Entering the season, the Marlins regularly talked about playing the game with the same passion as Fernandez.
"I've played with a little bit more energy this year," Ozuna said. "I concentrate a little more and try to be focused all the time."
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Ozuna is firmly establishing himself as one of the top young players in the game. He's now a two-time All-Star, and was voted in as a starter by the fans. It's his second straight year starting, but his first time as the choice of the fans; in 2016, Ozuna made the All-Star team as a reserve, but ended up starting due to injuries.
Ozuna has been the Marlins' most consistent regular, entering the All-Star break with a slash line of .316/.374/.566 with 23 homers and 70 RBIs. His 23 homers match his season high, set in 2016 and 2014.
The Marlins have one of the top outfield trios with Ozuna, Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich. Ozuna and Stanton are the Marlins' two All-Star representatives, with Ozuna set to start in left field and Stanton at DH.
"I remember how raw he was coming up, but I could see it," Stanton said. "There would be like two-week stretches. I was like, 'If this guy can sustain this, he's going to be up in the top in the league.' That's what he's done the past two years. I stay on him to keep him there. We stay on each other. But it's been fun. It's been a fun journey for both of us."
Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.