Advertisement
  1. News

Jose Fernandez's Alonso High baseball jersey taken during vigil at school

A Jose Fernandez jersey was in the dugout Wednesday during a candlelight vigil in his honor at Alonso High School.
A Jose Fernandez jersey was in the dugout Wednesday during a candlelight vigil in his honor at Alonso High School.
Published Sep. 30, 2016

TAMPA — Were it not for the jersey, and everything it represents, an 18-year-old baseball player at Alonso High School would never have met his hero: Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez.

Fernandez, the first Alonso Raven to reach the major leagues, met with the high school baseball team in center field last year for the ceremonial retiring of his No. 16 jersey. The special appearance gave Jose Ciccarello, the team's shortstop, the opportunity to ask Fernandez the big question: What does it take to make it in baseball?

"He said you have to work hard, you have to put in time after school and after practices,'' Ciccarello said, "and you have to do better than everybody else."

That advice is what Ciccarello remembers every time he sees a framed, No. 16 "away" jersey hanging in the school's office. But the "home" jersey Fernandez wore during his first few years at Alonso, when he was a Cuban immigrant with dreams like Ciccarello's, is gone.

That shirt disappeared from the team's dugout Wednesday night after a candlelight vigil for Fernandez, 24, who died in a boating crash Sunday. A crowd of 500 to 600 people filtered in and out of the field that night, passing by the spot where the jersey was hanging on display, said Ravens head coach Landy Faedo. It wasn't until everyone had gone that he noticed the empty coat hanger on the fence.

He immediately called the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office to file a police report and drove back to the school to meet with deputies that night, he said.

"It boggles my mind that someone would do something like that, especially when we're doing something nice for Jose and thinking about him and knowing that he's not going to be with us anymore," Faedo said.

There is no surveillance footage, but the jersey is believed to have been taken sometime between 7:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., according to the Sheriff's Office. Faedo had kept the jersey at his house, but brought it to greet alumni as they arrived for the vigil so they would see No. 16 "and have a quick thought about Jose," he said.

Faedo and Alonso High principal Kenneth Hart said they can't imagine any students or alumni taking the jersey. Teachers and coaches began calling and texting students to see if they had any information Wednesday night. The school made announcements to students Thursday and officials have posted messages on social media, hoping the thief would bring back the jersey. So far, there aren't any leads.

"I would take money right out of my pocket to get it back," Hart said. "It's absolutely disgusting, the lowest of the low."

It's unlikely the jersey would fetch much money from dealers, but it was invaluable to the school, Faedo said. It's part of the team's history and a symbol connecting them to Fernandez, Ciccarello said.

Keep up with Tampa Bay’s top headlines

Keep up with Tampa Bay’s top headlines

Subscribe to our free DayStarter newsletter

We’ll deliver the latest news and information you need to know every weekday morning.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

"That number is who you are, what you represent," Ciccarello said. "It's like saying your name. It's you."

Stealing such an integral piece of Fernandez's identity was selfish and immature, but most of all sad, Ciccarello said. The person who took it doesn't understand what it means to the school, and to players like him, he said.

"We need it here," Ciccarello said. "It was for us, it was for the family of Alonso, and he meant a lot to us."

Contact Anastasia Dawson at adawson@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3377. Follow @adawsonwrites.