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Tournaments : : Story
Fernandez Is Free To Pursue Dream
Jim Ecker        
Published: Thursday, October 21, 2010

JUPITER, Fla. -- Jose Fernandez took another step toward fulfilling his dream on Thursday.


It's a dream that began as a young boy in Cuba, it's a dream that helped sustain him during a harrowing escape from his native land, and it's a dream he's pursuing now as a United States citizen with an impressive 95 mph fastball.


He sorely wants to play in the major leagues.


Fernandez, 18, impressed hundreds of pro scouts, college coaches and fans Thursday when he pitched four shutout innings for FTB Mizuno/Cardinals Scout Team in a battle against the Reds Midwest Scout Team that ended in a 0-0 tie at the WWBA World Championship.


Fernandez and his family are free after escaping Cuba in 2008, and now Fernandez is chasing his next big dream.


"My goal, my dream, is playing in MLB," he said. "My first goal was to see my dad, and play MLB."


His father, Ramon Fernandez, fled Cuba in 2005. The rest of the family -- Jose, his mother and sister -- tried once to escape in a speedboat two or three years ago, but didn't make it and were returned to Cuba. Jose's mother fell out of the boat in choppy seas during their first attempt and Jose had to dive into the water to save her.


"The first time they caught me 10 miles from Miami, and they sent me back to Cuba," he said. "They wouldn't let me go to school or play baseball at all, so it kind of forced me to come here, to make my dream, you know?"


Their second attempt to leave Cuba was successful. They made it to Mexico, crossed into Texas and found their way to Tampa, Fla., where Jose is a senior at Alonso High School. He's faring well with a 3.3 grade point average, and his English is improving rapidly.


"I came from Cuba two years ago and no English at all, man," he said, smiling. "So I've been practicing at school. I go to my English class, pay attention and get it right. I'm working on it. That's why I'm getting a little better. I'm not good, but I'm getting a litlte better."


Fernandez, a stocky 6-foot-3, 215-pound righthander, flashed a fastball that hit 95 mph several times Thursday and rarely dipped below 92. "Ninety-five is perfect," he said, happy with his outing.


Fernandez said he hit 98 mph this summer at the Aflac Classic, where he enjoyed himself immensely. "That was the best," he said. "You make like a family."


Aside from his sizzling fastball, Fernandez said he also throws a slider, curveball, changeup and split-finger fastball. He said he's committed to the University of South Florida, but hopes to be drafted next June and possibly start his pro baseball career.


"My dream is to be drafted after high school or after college," he said. "I want to play MLB. That's my dream."


He took another step on Thursday.


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