Baseball is mourning one of its most popular stars after Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez died in a boating accident early Sunday morning. He was 24.

It was a devastating end to an improbable journey for the beloved ace, who risked his life to escape Cuba and saved his own mother’s while attempting to do so. His legacy will loom large over the sport and the many lives he touched, and we’ve compiled some of the stories and anecdotes that have attempted to put his incredible life into perspective.

Below, a sampling of what’s been written about the legendary Cuban pitcher:

Fernandez arrived in the United States as a 15-year-old after defecting from Cuba in 2007 with his mother and sister. Dan Le Batard of the Miami Herald profiled Fernandez’s early struggles with the language and culture of his new country, in addition to missing his grandmother, who was stranded on Cuba and wouldn’t reach the U.S. until 2013.

Fernandez’s father, Ramon Jimenez – a jokester – told him at the restaurant that he could go up at the buffet and take as much as he wanted. Get out of here, Jose said, I’m not a sucker. I’m not falling for your tricks, Dad, and getting in trouble. He didn’t believe that there was any such thing as all you can eat, not when he came from nothing to eat.

No, no, he told the waitress. I did not ask for that, and I will not pay for that. He didn’t know anything about free refills.

He could only afford to call his grandmother for three or four minutes at a time. He would skip class, where he didn’t understand a word, to go and cry in the woods. He spent nine hours one day sitting in his car by the beach, distraught after learning that his grandmother had again been denied a visa (she has been denied four times). Read more at the Miami Herald.

Just five years after his defection, Fernandez made his much anticipated major-league debut as a 20-year-old. He allowed five runs in 5 2/3 innings against the Detroit Tigers, striking out 13. MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro asked him if he had any nerves in his debut:

“The only thing I was scared about was getting in that boat, getting shot at,” Fernandez said. “Sometimes jumping in the water. After that, I’m not scared about anything else. I’ve been in jail. I’ve been shot at. I’ve been in the water. What am I going to do?

“That’s why, when people say to me, ‘Are you nervous, are you scared?’ I’m not scared to do anything.” Read more at MLB.com.

Fernandez was named an All-Star and the National League Rookie of the Year in 2013, but no matter how much his star grew, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald says, he prioritized giving back to his community and to the fans.

On Friday, after shagging fly balls during batting practice, he began to trot back to the clubhouse before some fans asked him to sign autographs. Fernandez stood in foul territory, next to the stands, and fulfilled every last autograph request.

“I signed for like 1,000 people,” he said. “I was signing for an hour.”

The expectations are greater, and so are the demands that come with them. Fernandez doesn’t want to lose his hunger, his edge.

“At the end of the day, we’re all the same,” he said. “I’m not better than anybody else. That’s the way I try to see it, making sure I keep my head in line and making sure I know who I am and where I came from.” Read more at the Miami Herald.

While rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, Fernandez became a U.S. citizen in April of 2015. He was the keynote speaker during the event and left two tickets for each of the other 140 people who also became citizens that day. Yahoo’s Jeff Passan reflects on Fernandez’s extraordinary life in an appropriately titled column, “The American Dream.”

For all his talent, all his achievement, Fernandez never lost perspective on what allowed him to thrive. He loved freedom – loved the ability to say what he believed, to think what he wanted, to live without restriction. When he became an American citizen in 2015, seven years after coming to the United States, he waved a small flag and talked about how thankful he was. When he and the Marlins played at Fort Bragg Fourth of July weekend, the moment consumed him. He’d never forget Cuba. But he was a proud American. Read more at Yahoo Sports.

The Marlins canceled their game Sunday and the entire league had a moment of silence to honor Fernandez. Several teammates, opponents, and friends shared touching anecdotes about Fernandez. MLive.com’s Evan Woodberry talked to former Marlins teammate Casey McGehee, whose son has cerebral palsy, about the relationship his family shared with Fernandez.

The toughest part for me has been having to tell my son.

I think everybody knows about my son and some of the struggles that he deals with. A lot of people don’t really know how to treat him. But for some reason, Jose had a heart for him.

I’d get to the field and it wasn’t like, ‘Hey Jose, do you mind keeping an eye on him while I hit?’ It was, Jose coming to grab him and they were together from the time I got to the field to the time my wife came to pick him up. I think that really says a lot about what was truly in his heart and what kind of a guy he was. Read more at MLive.com.

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