MIAMI -- Marlins leadoff hitter Dee Gordon, a left-hander, took one pitch from the right side of the plate Monday night in honor of the teammate he lost in a weekend boating accident.
Then Gordon switched to his natural left side and hit the third pitch to the upper deck for his first home run of the season.
The unlikely blast from the 160-pound infielder set the tone for an emotional night in which the Marlins remembered their beloved ace Jose Fernandez, who died in a boating accident early Sunday morning.
Gordon later said it was the hardest ball he ever hit. The Marlins Park crowd erupted in cheers as Gordon rounded the bases.
With tears streaming down his face, Gordon touched his heart and looked up into the night sky as he crossed the plate. Then he sobbed on the shoulders of his teammates as he made his way to the dugout, capping one of the most poignant recent moments in sports.
The Marlins took the field Monday night in jerseys with Fernandez's name and No. 16. Teams officials hinted that it could be the last time a Marlins player wears that number.
Before the game with the New York Mets, players on both teams stood with their caps over their hearts as a lone trumpeter played "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."
Players from both teams exchanged hugs before the Marlins converged on the pitcher's mound to rub dirt on their pants. The late pitcher preferred to use dirt instead of the rosin bag to keep his hands dry.
After all that, the outcome of the game seemed like an afterthought. But the Marlins beat the Mets 7-3, one day after calling off Sunday's game to mourn the loss of the 24-year-old Fernandez, who died along with two of his friends early Sunday in a crash at the entrance of Miami Harbor.
Once the game ended, the Marlins locked arms around the pitcher's mound. Some knelt in prayer, others wiped away tears. One player kissed the pitching rubber. They all placed their caps on the mound before walking slowly off the field.