MIAMI -- The thoughts running through? Dee Gordon's head after his first home run of the season ranged from hurried to confusion Monday night. The Miami Marlins?second baseman created one of the memorable sports moments of 2016 as he fought back tears on his way to home plate.
"It seemed like it took forever," Gordon said of rounding the bases. "I was just trying to go back to my teammates as fast as possible, and I couldn't get there. I was just wondering why [ Jose Fernandez] wasn't on the top of the steps cheering for me."
This wasn't just any at-bat for Gordon. This was the first plate appearance for the Marlins' organization after the passing of Fernandez, the superstar pitcher who died Sunday in a boating accident. That was something Gordon took very seriously.
The left-handed Gordon came up with a plan to step to the plate and take a pitch right-handed while wearing a helmet in his size with Fernandez's No. 16 on it. Gordon then switched helmets and went to his usual left-handed stance, and his first swing was a monster shot to right field off New York Mets pitcher Bartolo Colon. That?sparked the Marlins to a 7-3 win.
Gordon said hitting a home run -- his first of the season -- never crossed his mind.
But what made Gordon's leadoff home run even more miraculous is the fact that he's far from a power hitter. It took Gordon 304 at-bats this season to hit his first one out of the ballpark. For his career, Gordon is averaging one home run every 239.2 at-bats. But there was something special about this moment for Gordon on a night dedicated to Fernandez.
There haven't been many smiles from the Marlins the past two days. But Gordon was able to share a rare smile after his homer with teammate Giancarlo Stanton, who usually is the Marlins player delivering long-distance bombs.
"Pure emotion -- there's no other way it could be scripted," Stanton said of Gordon's homer. "There's no other way that, unless you're in a movie rewriting everything that just happened tonight, I couldn't believe it. I just put my hands up and celebrated."
It was a banner night overall for Gordon, who went 4-for-5 with a homer, two RBIs and a stolen base. Gordon had an "RIP" shirt made in honor of Fernandez and wore it under his jersey, which was another way for Gordon to keep Fernandez close during the game.
"It was only right for me to put it on," Gordon said. "I know I wasn't supposed to wear it for batting practice, but that's a fine I'm willing to take."
Marlins president David Samson said before the game that the entire locker room will struggle to "reset their equilibrium" after Fernandez's death. Monday's win over the Mets was a small step in what will be a long healing process.
Led by Gordon's homer, Monday's performance was a fitting way for Marlins players to offer a tribute to their teammate who is gone way too soon. This might be the final time you see any Marlins player wear Fernandez's No. 16, especially if the boss -- owner Jeffrey Loria -- has his say.
"Nobody is going to wear [No. 16] -- I can tell you that now," Loria said. "Nobody will wear that number again."
If this was the last time we see a No. 16 jersey on the field for the Marlins, Gordon and the rest of Fernandez's teammates made sure it was represented in the best light possible.