Jose Fernandez fans get a chance to say goodbye today

PHOTO: Pedro Portal

Jose Fernandez’s family, his teammates as well as baseball royalty will gather on Thursday to mourn the loss of the young superstar pitcher, the face of the Miami franchise.

But first the men, women and children who brought the tickets, collected the bobbleheads, filled out the scorecards and cheered his every strikeout get to say their farewells — and show what he meant to Miami.

Wednesday, Fernandez’s legions of local fans are invited to gather at 2 p.m. at Marlins Park in Little Havana and join an automobile procession in the ballplayer’s honor. Embarking at 2:16 p.m. — an homage to the No. 16 that he wore — the procession will head to Ermita de la Caridad (Shrine of Our Lady of Charity) located at 3609 South Miami Ave. for a private blessing.

Afterward, a public viewing will be held from 5 to 11 at St. Brendan Catholic Church, 8725 SW 32nd St., Miami.

The death of the 24-year-old pitching prodigy stunned the broader baseball world. But to Miamians, his life had deeper meaning because of this harrowing escape by sea from Cuba. The city, forged by the Cuban exile experience, embraced him and he embraced it.

Since his death early Sunday in a boating accident that also took the lives of companions Eduardo Rivero, 25, and Emilio Macias, 27, fans have streamed to Marlins Park to contribute to a makeshift memorial of hats, candles and balloons.

 “When I saw the news I cried. He’s a family member,” Felipe Zwanzger, 18, said Sunday outside the ballpark — a day when the game against the Mets was canceled because of grief and sorrow. “Whenever my life wasn’t going right I would come here and escape from everything, watch him pitch.”

Participating fans should gather at the ballpark’s west plaza. Free surface parking is available on the west side of the stadium.

The families of Macias and Rivero have established Gofundme accounts to help pay for their services. Wakes were held for the two men Tuesday evening.

In lieu of flowers, the Fernandez family requests charitable contributions to the JDF16 Foundation at the Miami Foundation. Fans can donate by sending checks to the Miami Foundation at 40 NW Third St. #305, Miami, FL 33128 or online.

Miami Herald staff writer Manny Navarro contributed to this report.

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