Learning from the Death of a Promising Talent

By Anthony Santino

Co-News Editor

I’ve been playing tennis in some capacity for most of my life. I’ve also been blessed to have the opportunity to play college tennis at Sacred Heart University for the past two years and counting.

Though I love tennis more than any other sport and appreciate having the chance to play it collegiately, I don’t always express that on the court.

Last weekend, my team and I took part in an invitational tournament at Yale University. It’s pretty much an annual event on our calendar, as well as a great opportunity to play a lot of matches and represent the school.

Well, for something I always look forward to, I didn’t enjoy much of my time on the court at Yale.

I’m not the guy who breaks racquets and argues with his opponents, but I am prone to yelling at myself when I make mistakes on the court. Last weekend at Yale, I let out more steam than an old tank engine.

Too often I would miss a ball during a rally and scream “idiot!” or something along those lines.

I also angrily mumbled some intricate rants to myself that had to do with how I felt I should quit tennis, or break my racquets, or do both. But, why would someone who claims to love tennis and appreciate all that comes with it act in such a manner? Well, as common as artificial displays of self-loathing are in competitive tennis settings, I still don’t know the answer. All I know is I want to stop acting that way altogether.

After a few hours had passed from my final match of the tournament, I pretty much recovered mentally. I had a relaxing Saturday evening with some friends and my spirits were up.

Even so, any recollection of the Yale tournament soured my mood just a little bit.

Then I caught some bad news Sunday morning.

When I woke up, I saw multiple notifications on my phone that reported the death of José Fernández, a professional baseball pitcher for the Miami Marlins who died in a boating accident on Sunday. He was 24-years-old and one of Major League Baseball’s rising stars.

As a New York Mets fan, I would almost cringe seeing how Fernández ran through my team so easily and so often (the Marlins are in the Mets’ division, so they play frequently).

Fernández’s talent was something you couldn’t even hate on. I would find myself watching him race through the Mets lineup, shaking my head and then thinking, this guy is just too good.

Though, what was almost equally impressive about Fernández was his outward love for the game. In the most competitive baseball league on Earth, he would smile through the good and the bad. And for someone who was in jail as a teen for attempting to defect from Cuba, that smile makes his story even more of a gem.

I didn’t cry after hearing the news, although I almost did after watching some moving Fernández videos on social media.

I do, however, hope I re-learn a couple of things from this tragedy that I should always remember. How precious our time is, and how any sport, at the end of any day, is just a game.

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  1. Anthony…I’m pleased you learned from your angry tennis outburst that “life” indeed is much bigger than the “game”. Isn’t it a coincidence (or was it?), sad as it was, that the Jose Fernandez tragedy almost intersected with your tennis meltdown. When you look at the two events side-by-side they offer an unanticipated life lesson, a lesson much bigger than anything learned in or outside of the classroom. In all its horrible unexpected abrutness Jose’s death put life into perspective in ways we may never fully understand. His time was much too brief. Sad as it was, tragic in every way, we can learn from the loss of one of major league baseball’s shining stars that life is God’s treasure to us to be respected for all of His blessings. I learned from reading your story…never too late, even at my age! Thanks for sharing it…C. Donald Cook, Executive Director of Athletics, Emeritus, Sacred Heart University

    1. Hi Donald,

      There is definitely a lot that can be learned from such a tragedy. People sometimes forget the powerful impact sport has on every individual involved until something like this happens.

      And I’m glad you found value in my story. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to share it.


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