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Marlins ace Jose Fernandez fueled by Abuela's presence

jose fernandez
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

MIAMI -- A year ago, Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez went from a Cuban defector to being drafted by his favorite team to winning the National League Rookie of the Year Award.

Fernandez started his sophomore campaign with a dominating Opening Day win, making him only the second pitcher to be victorious on Opening Day after winning the ROY award the previous season, joining the Giants' John Montefusco.

Along with that, his nine strikeouts puts him on a list of 10 pitchers who record nine strikeouts and no walks on Opening Day. The other guys on the list: Cy Young (1900), Walter Johnson (1916), Bob Gibson (1967, 1969), Chris Short (1968), Ferguson Jenkins (1969), JR Richard (1980), Steve Carlton (1983), Mike Mussina (1998) and Jered Weaver (2012).

"Doesn't surprise me," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "This kid is going to end up on a lot of lists with a lot of great pitchers the way he's going. Him winning the Rookie of the Year was just the start for this kid. He's just hungry. That's the beauty of Jose. He wants it every single time he gets the ball."

This year the 21-year-old ace is stronger than ever, not just because of his newfound passion for cycling but also because of the presence of his beloved abuela, Olga Fernandez.

Fernandez broke down in tears of shock when he was reunited with his grandmother last fall. Olga is here in Miami on a five-year visa, but is not permitted to stay in this country longer than 364 consecutive days. So she'll return home to Cuba for a bit and then come back to Miami.

Fernandez said his grandmother plans to attend as many Marlins games as she can. She's an avid baseball fan, as most Cubans are. She even follows the hometown Cuban league team online.

"She'll never get tired of watching baseball," Fernandez said. "She said she used to play baseball and do all that stuff when she was little. One time I was playing in Cuba with a tennis ball, a game. You had to hit it with your hand and run. One time they hit a line drive and when I went to catch it it passed by me and she caught it. I was like 'Woah.'"

Fernandez said she has yet to cook him a home-cooked Cuban meal, butthat did not prevent him from treating Olga to a dinner at Texas de Brazil, a Brazilian steakhouse that offers a buffet special with some of the best meats anyone can find in a restaurant.

"She couldn't believe it," he said. "So much food."

According to Fernandez, his grandmother and mother are living with him in Miami this season and probably most of the year with him except for a few occasional trips back to Tampa, where Fernandez lived while in high school.

Fernandez has everything dear to him in one central location, which serves as a source of empowerment for Fernandez as he continues on in his mission to win the NL Cy Young Award and lead the Marlins to the postseason.

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