Late Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez will be permanently memorialized in a 9-to-10-foot bronze statue outside Marlins Park later this year, team president David Samson said Thursday.
Owner Jeffrey Loria, an art dealer, is working closely with sculptor William Behrends to create the statue that will eventually find a home on the ballpark's West Plaza or East Plaza. The piece won't be complete for at least six months. Behrends previously made the statues of Willie McCovey and Willie Mays that sit AT&T Park in San Francisco.
"[Loria] went through many, many pictures of Jose with the sculptor and one image was decided upon," said Samson, who noted that hadn't seen the chosen photo. "And that's what the sculptor is working on.
"It's something Jeffrey wanted to do personally for Jose and his family and his fans, just to have something that will permanently represent what Jose was and who he was."
Samson said Loria and the organization did not hesitate to move forward with their plans to honor Fernandez when a state investigation concluded last month that Fernandez, drunk and with cocaine in his system, was driving his speeding boat when it crashed off Miami Beach early on the morning of Sept. 25. Fernandez and two others, Eduardo Rivero and Emilio Macias, died.
Had Fernandez lived, he could have faced charges of manslaughter, boating while intoxicated, vessel homicide and reckless or careless operation.
"People make mistakes. Mistakes have consequences," Samson said. "But it doesn't change what Jose meant to the Marlins, what he meant to Miami, what he meant to the community. And the fact that he will always be a Marlin — that doesn't change.
"When you love somebody, you love them when things are good and you love them when things are bad. And if you change your love because of a mistake someone makes, then I guess you never loved them at all. And that's not the case with Jose."
Referencing specifically the toxicology report, Samson said, "it doesn't change the legacy of Jose in our view."
"It is very disappointing. It's a tragedy that could've been avoided, but it wasn't," Samson said. "But it doesn't change our love for him or the fact that we want him to be memorialized here at Marlins Park, because he's forever a Marlin."
Loria initially revealed plans for a large Fernandez sculpture in an extensive Q&A with ESPN published Thursday.
"I went through hundreds and hundreds of photographs with the sculptor and gestures of Jose's face to try and make it perfect," Loria said. "No one else is going to get involved in a piece of sculpture other than me, right? I've spent 50 years in that world.
"We're going to cast it in bronze and paint the glove the red-orange that Jose would like, and that will be the only color on it. I don't want to make it kitschy, but that was his favorite thing. Hopefully we'll see it in six months or so. It's a very long process to cast a sculpture that's 9 or 10 feet high, as opposed to 6 feet."
Loria added that the statue would be that tall "because Jose was larger than life."