NEW YORK -- Surrounded by family, friends and some local media, Jose Fernandez was selected 14th overall by the Marlins in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. At the time, Fernandez was a hard-throwing 18-year-old who helped lead Alonso High School in Tampa, Fla., to a couple of state titles.
Fernandez had a commitment to play at the University of South Florida, and he had indications he would be picked in the first round. He just didn't know when.
"I didn't know if I was going to be top three, or if I was going to be [No.] 25 or whatever," Fernandez said. "I was ready to get a chance."
Fernandez was surprised and elated when the Marlins selected him. To this day, being drafted is one of the proudest accomplishments in his life.
"It's a feeling that is just incredible," Fernandez said. "It was the best feeling I ever had when they said my name in the Draft. I knew, from then on, it was up to me, and how hard I worked, to get to the big leagues."
Born in Cuba, Fernandez defected to the United States in 2008, where he hooked up with family members in Tampa. Five years later, he finds himself pitching in the big leagues, and he's set to make his next start on Friday against the Mets at Citi Field.
What Fernandez experienced two years ago is something so many young ballplayers will go through as the 2013 First-Year Player Draft gets underway on Thursday.
The Marlins have the sixth overall pick, and Fernandez said whoever is taken won't have a clue that Miami is interested.
"I think whoever they get this year, he's not going to have an idea," Fernandez said.
The right-hander speaks from personal experience. As a high school senior, Fernandez noted the Marlins had very little contact with him.
"They talked to me the first game that I pitched my senior year, and it was like a practice game," Fernandez said.
Fernandez was scouted by Brian Kraft.
"The guy who drafted me came up and said, 'Would you fill out this letter?'" Fernandez said. "I was like, 'Yeah, it sounds good.' I gave it to him and I never heard from him, and I pitched really bad that game. I walked like five guys. That was pretty incredible when they called my name."