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Fernandez shares spotlight before Miami gem

Fernandez shares spotlight before Miami gem

Fernandez shares spotlight before Miami gem

MIAMI -- Jose Fernandez may have stolen the show Friday night, but the Marlins rookie gladly shared the spotlight in a touching moment just before he threw his first pitch.

When Fernandez paced to the mound to warm up in the first inning, he didn't walk alone.

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Fernandez was accompanied by his friend, Zeb Vance, a 25-year-old from Greensboro, N.C.

"To him, it was really special," Fernandez said. "I've known him since my first year in the Minor Leagues, right after I got Drafted."

Vance and his family are known by all the Marlins' players who passed through low Class A Greensboro on their way to the big leagues.

Once Fernandez reached the mound and prepared to warm up, Vance headed off the field, but not before shaking hands with catcher Jeff Mathis.

"The parents, the fans over there, they give a lot of love," Fernandez said. "It's just amazing. I like to give when I can. I try to give back to the people who love this game and have fun watching it."

Fernandez promised to win for Vance, and did the rookie ever deliver, striking out 14 in eight innings in the Marlins' 10-0 win over the Indians.

"What Jose did on the mound before the game, that goes to show you right there what kind of guy he is," Marlins first baseman Logan Morrison said.

"Zeb was there when I was in Greensboro in 2007. That's a special kid in so many ways. I think that was a real thrill for him to get on the mound before the beginning of the game. That was Jose's idea. That's the type of stuff that leaves a lasting impression on people. Not the 14 K's."

When Fernandez was at Greensboro, he also brought Vance to the mound with him before a start.

On Friday night, Fernandez shared the moment with a fan who traveled from North Carolina to see him pitch.

"I gave him my bat. I gave him a ball," Fernandez said. "Walking with him out there, it opened a lot of eyes. A lot of people who get to know me as a person off field, I think that's really important, too."

Morrison says Fernandez possesses all the traits to be a role model.

"To be great, you're going to have a certain aura about you," Morrison said. "Is he confident, is he cocky? Yeah. But you've got to be to play this game. You've got to be to be great. That's all the good things about him.

"Off the field, he's a great dude. Comes up to me every day to say hello. He doesn't have to say hello to me, who am I? He's awesome. I think it's the stuff he's going to be doing off the field. He's going to be an ambassador for this game for a long time."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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