JUPITER, Fla. — The Perfect Game World Wood Bat Association World Championships kicked off today in Jupiter, Fla. and the event started with a bang. The first game of the day, on the first field scouts see when they walk in the gate, featured one of the event's must-see pitchers in righthander Jose Fernandez from Alonso High in Tampa.
While all players work hard to get to this event, Fernandez has been through extraordinary circumstances to get where he is today. Before his sophomore year of high school, he fled Cuba with his family to have a better life in the United States.
That puts things in perspective at a young age, and while he has a serious demeanor between the lines, it's easy for Fernandez to relax and have fun on the mound. The hitters he was facing, however, didn't have much fun.
"The last week and the week before that, I was working out for this event," Fernandez said. "I was working hard, really hard, to get ready for this and just wanted to come down, throw strikes, get outs and pitch my game."
That's exactly what he did. Fernandez dominated over his four innings of work, quickly getting ahead of batters and blowing his 92-94 mph fastball past them. He mixed in a hard curveball at 80-83 mph and an 81 mph changeup. He'll also occasionally drop his arm angle down a little bit and mix in a slider.
"I trust my pitches," Fernandez said. "Today I had a guy 3-1 and I threw him a curveball for a strike and then struck him out with a fastball. After that, I had a guy 2-1 and threw him a changeup and then struck him out with a curveball. I trust all my pitches."
Fernandez struck out six hitters in his outing and only one hitter hit the ball with any authority—outfielder Alex Greer squared up a 93 mph fastball for a triple—but Fernandez remained in control and got out of the inning unscathed. His final pitch of the day was 95 mph.
The workouts show, too. Fernandez has trimmed down from where his body was during Perfect Game's National Showcase and at the Aflac All-America Game, when he weighed 260 pounds after gaining weight because a sprained ankle kept him from running for the month leading up to the game. Physically, Fernandez looked good on the mound today, standing 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds. He has the frame of a workhorse starting pitcher with big, broad shoulders and tree trunks for legs.
"I think today was one of my great days," Fernandez said. "I've been having good days for a long time, but today I was feeling like I want to pitch and I want to have fun. Everything is going well for me now. School is going great, my family is perfect, everything is happy, so I am happy too."
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