Fernandez a big kid in an All-Star's body
Rookie pitcher spends time with a youth camp days after learning of All-Star bid
MIAMI -- Becoming the youngest All-Star in Marlins history gives the impression that 20-year-old rookie pitcher Jose Fernandez is mature beyond his years. But as the folks at Miami's Children's Museum like to say, "You're never too old to be a kid."
Three days after learning he would be Miami's representative at the 2013 MLB All-Star Game on July 16 at Citi Field, Fernandez spent Tuesday morning touring the Miami Children's Museum with 30 campers from Kiwanis of Little Havana Summer Camp.
"I'm a kid, so I love being here with them," Fernandez said. "I'm enjoying it. It's a pleasure to come here, and hopefully we can do it again."
Fernandez laughed, danced, visited with animatronic dinosaurs and even took a turn on the museum's tunnel slide while hanging out with the children. He also got a chance to meet Sue, the museum's dinosaur mascot.
"I was trying to tell them, 'No, he's real!'" Fernandez said. "And they go, 'No, he's not real!' And I was like, 'All right, but he's hanging in there.'"
Deborah Spiegelman, the executive director of the Miami Children's Museum, praised Fernandez's willingness to serve as a role model in the community. She was happy to see the pitcher offer the campers a unique experience.
"Look at the smiles on these kids," Spiegelman said. "Look at their reaction to being with a star like that and a great role model."
A stellar rookie season has quickly turned Fernandez into one of the faces of the Marlins' franchise, a role he does not take lightly. He wants to bring more to Miami than strikeouts and All-Star selections.
"Giving back to the community is really important, more for the kids," Fernandez said. "With the kids, the thing is they love you a lot. You know you're going to get a lot of love from them. It's just fun to get the chance to do stuff with them."
Spiegelman is excited by Fernandez's potential as a role model in the community. She was especially impressed with his enthusiasm during Tuesday's event.
"Look at how genuine and real he is," Spiegelman said. "When I had the opportunity to thank him, he just lit up. He said, 'I love it. I'm having a great time.' Look at him. Just by gauging the smile and the genuine reaction that he's got, it's cool to see."
Fernandez is the youngest Marlin by nearly 11 months, so he is used to being the kid when he goes to the ballpark. He may have been the oldest member of his tour group at the Miami Children's Museum, but that didn't stop him from fitting right in.
"I tried, I tried, I tried," said Fernandez of channeling his inner kid. "Here, I've got to be young, so I've got to enjoy it. I got to do some stuff with the kids. That makes me happy, and they're pretty happy, so I'm enjoying it."
Joe Morgan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.