Late last fall, Miami-Dade County commissioners had good intentions.
According to the Miami Herald, seven of the 13 commissioners - a quorum - approved a measure that would rename a stretch of road adjacent to the Miami Marlins' baseball stadium after pitcher Jose Fernandez, who died in a late-night boat crash in September. The vote took place less than two months after the tragic death of the 24-year-old pitcher.
Fernandez was one of the top pitchers in the game. He was already a two-time All-Star. He struck out 253 batters in 182.1 innings last season alone. Off the field, he volunteered his time and money to help others.
Each Sunday during baseball season, he would invite Miami-area children to Marlins Park and spend time with them before the contest. For all his pitching ability and all his goodwill, though, his life ended following a series of horrible decisions.
Fernandez and two friends were found dead at 3 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 25, following a fatal boat crash. Recently, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission released its report after a lengthy investigation. The conclusion: Fernandez operated the boat with cocaine in his system. Also, he sported a blood-alcohol level of 0.147 percent. You can read more about the investigation at espn.com.
So now you have the Jose Fernandez Avenue in Miami, a stretch of road named after someone who committed manslaughter and violated several other laws, including boating under the influence. Awkward. The Miami-Dade commissioners should have waited before honoring Fernandez.
There's more to the story, too. Fernandez's pregnant girlfriend at the time had their daughter in late February, and now she gets to grow up without a father. If that's not bad enough, ESPN is reporting the families of the two men who died in the accident are possibly going to bring wrongful death lawsuits against the Fernandez estate. This strange saga is far from over.
It's unfortunate we're discussing this. We should be talking about Fernandez pitching in spring training and getting ready for the season. Instead, we're wondering why he took cocaine, drank way too much alcohol and then decided he was OK enough to captain a boat. Three strikes. Sadly, he's out.
We are all defined by our decisions, whether that's fair or not. Sometimes, we get away with some bad choices. Sometimes, we don't.
I still remember attending a high school football game with three friends my junior year in Wrens, Ga. En route to the game, one of my friends driving the car pulled over on a dirt road in some isolated location.
One of them pulled out a joint and lit it. The three of them took turns puffing and passing. I was offered the opportunity to do the same. I declined. I'm not the proverbial goody two shoes, but I'm not a drug user, either.
Maybe I declined marijuana that night because of my upbringing. Maybe it was because I always tried to keep my mind on the future - I planned to become the first one out of my family to attend (and graduate from) college. Maybe it was because former first lady Nancy Reagan planted the seed in my mind years earlier: Just say no!
I said no then and I said no several times afterward. I haven't regretted those decisions. Some folks will claim marijuana isn't that bad for you, that it even has has certain medicinal qualities. To me it's all: blah, blah, blah.
I've witnessed friends, ones with IQs much higher than mine, flush their lives down the toilet because they started smoking marijuana. Fernandez ended his life because of his drug use. Kids, don't do drugs.
There's a lot of smart high schoolers in Columbia County. My three friends were oozing with intelligence, too. None of them graduated from college; they should have. That's a real shame - three brains all gone to pot.
I'll say it again: Kids, don't do drugs. Stay focused on the task ahead. Life has way more to offer than the cheap thrill of trying to get high. When you're having problems, find solace in family and faith and not in drugs.
Too bad Jose Fernandez didn't learn that lesson. Instead, he's left behind plenty of drama. If you're ever in Miami, and you get the chance, drive down Jose Fernandez Avenue. Remember the great pitcher he was. Remember all the potential he had. And remember to always make good decisions.