Toronto Blue Jays legend and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Tony Fernandez has passed away at the age of 57.
He had been in an induced coma in a Miami hospital due to complications from a kidney disease since early February. In recent days, Fernandez had shown some signs of improvement, but according to MLB Insider Hector Gomez, the Blue Jays great suffered a stroke on Saturday. Fernandez was removed from life support on Sunday.
Fernandez had been fighting Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) for a few years now. PKD is a genetic disorder in which cyst clusters grow in the kidneys, causing the kidneys to enlarge and stop functioning over time.
As word of his death spread across social media,some of his former teammates shared their condolences.
Signed by the Blue Jays in 1979, Fernandez played 12 memorable seasons in Toronto, winning the hearts of fans with his patented submarine-style throws, unparalleled range and clutch hitting. The popular Dominican shortstop suited up for 15 games with the Blue Jays in 1983, before being named the club’s top rookie in 1984. In his first year as an everyday shortstop, Fernandez hit .289 to help propel the Blue Jays to their first American League East title.
Over the next five seasons, Fernandez established himself as one of baseball’s best all-around shortstops, leading the Blue Jays in batting average twice (1986, 1987), hits three times (1986, 1988, 1990) and triples four times (1986, 1987, 1989, 1990). He was also a three-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove winner during that stretch. After two seasons in the National League with the San Diego Padres and New York Mets, Fernandez was dealt back to the Jays in June 1993. He proceeded to hit .306 in 94 games and play an integral role on the World Series-winning squad. In the six-game Fall Classic that year, Fernandez hit .333 and drove in a series-best nine runs.
Following one-year stints with the Reds, Yankees and Indians, Fernandez returned to Toronto to hit .321 and drive in 72 runs in 1998. He followed that up with a .328 batting average in 1999, the fifth best single-season average in Jays history, and was named an All-Star for the fifth time in his career. In his final tenure in Toronto in 2001, Fernandez set a club record with 16 pinch hits. The Blue Jays legend retired as the club’s all-time leader in hits (1,583), games played (1,450) and triples (72), and ranks third in batting average (.297). For his efforts, his name was added to the Blue Jays Level of Excellence in 2001 and he was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008.
“We are heartbroken to learn that Tony Fernandez has passed away,” said Scott Crawford, the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s director of operations in a statement.
“Tony was a baseball legend in every sense. He was a five-time All-Star, four-time Gold Glove Award winner, a World Series champion and the Toronto Blue Jays’ all-time hits leader, but more importantly he was a gentle and thoughtful man who was always quick to pray for someone that he sensed needed help. When he was inducted into our Hall of Fame in 2008, he gave a very moving and inspiring speech that many of us still talk about today. We are grateful that in the years that followed, Tony continued to be a strong supporter of our museum who returned regularly to our annual induction ceremony. In my view, Tony was everything a Hall of Famer should be: an all-time great on the field and a charitable, selfless person away from it. We will miss him dearly.”
Fernandez is survived by his wife, Clara, and five children, Joel, Jonathan, Abraham, Andres and Jasmine.