TAMPA (FOX 13) - As part of Alonso High School's 2009 state championship team, Brandon Johnson is used to playing alongside the best. He says he's never shared a dugout with anyone more gifted than former teammate Jose Fernandez.
"He was one of those guys where it didn't matter what kind of game we were playing...whether it was practice, or a simple pick-up game, or a real-life game like the state championship; he would want to beat you every single time," Johnson said Monday.
It was an edge immediately noticed by Ravens coach Landy Faedo.
"The first day I saw him here at Alonso, I knew he was special. I remember I told the other coaches, I said 'That guy's going to be a first-round pick,'" he smiled.
Former Alonso pitching coach Pete Toledo had tears in his eyes as he recalled his days coaching Fernandez.
"He was one of those kids that just comes once in a lifetime. I tell people, to us, he was like a comet that we were able to harness for three years and then we let go for the rest of the world to see," Toledo said Monday.
That's just what Fernandez did. He was the Marlins' first-round draft pick in 2011. Still, he always returned to his home away from home during the off season: Alonso's baseball field.
Johnson last saw him in 2013, right after he was named the National League's rookie of the year.
"He had the exact same smile, the exact same mentality. Gave me a big hug, asked me how the family was doing. That's what I'll remember about him. That smile and the way he loved other people," Johnson said.
Early Sunday morning, that talent was ripped from the world before his star could fully rise. His baseball family says it's a loss to the game and a smile that will be sorely missed.
"To hear about something that sad to happen to a guy like that...it just hurts me, it really does," Johnson said.
At Monday night's Marlins game against the New York Mets, very Marlins player will be wearing a #16 jersey to honor Fernandez.
On Wednesday night, there's a candlelight vigil planned on the Alonso High School baseball field to remember the legend.